My wife has experienced this frustration throughout the course of this year, firstly trying to obtain a passport and then a return visa for a permanent resident. You see, she was born in the United Kingdom and migrated with her parents to Australia in 1968 at the tender age of 4 so it’s not as if she had a choice anyway. So she was educated here and has worked here, paid taxes here for 30 odd years and, heck, even bore a fully fledged Australian son. She never bothered to get an Australian citizenship because she regarded herself as Australian and that decision is not the point of this story. So, moving along, she is a British citizen living outside of Britain for the sake of definition.
As we had planned a holiday, she needed to obtain a passport and the only option, given the circumstances, was to get a British one so she duly filled out the forms, gathered the necessary documents (and there are plenty of them, I can tell you) and shot them off to HM Passport Office Liverpool. We were told that it may take up to 12 weeks because of a backlog but, hey, we had 6 months so “no problemo”. To cut a very long story short, she received her passport seven and a half months later which will give some indication of how efficiently the British public service operates. And this was after they moved this function to the UK because the Australian office was taking longer than 2 weeks to process applications! Suffice to say, we now think that “Yes Minister” is a documentary.
Now, if you are a permanent resident British citizen in Australia and travel overseas, you need a return visa or they will stop you at the airport and not let you in – no matter how many documents you put on display. Lucky we are in Australia with a marvelous public service, we say. We should be able to sort this out rather pronto, old chap, so we crank up the computer and go directly to the immigration department website and fill out all the details required (straight off the British passport, allegedly the most desirable in the world) and it returns with “cannot identify you”. Well, wow, that is odd, we think, because when she exceeded the 80km speed limit by 4kmh, they found her fairly quickly so she can’t be too much of a phantom. Never mind, she will go to the office in person and sort this minor misunderstanding out, so off to the Dandenong Immigration Office she goes armed with three different forms of photo identification, birth certificate, marriage certificate, bills, passport, Medicare card .. everything bar a microchip and a tattoo on her forehead. Success? Well, no, because they couldn’t work out how she got to be a Ryan from a Brown when the marriage certificate said she was a Johnstone and would need to come back in person with another marriage certificate that said so.
Now my wife is a very understanding, non-confrontational person and copped this on the chin but can somebody tell me how, in this age of technology and linked government computers, the officer could not simply understand that, to be married and obtain a certificate, you would have needed to prove you were divorced in the first place? Heck, if he need proof, could he or she just check this on the Births, Deaths and Marriages register? Or does he have to prove who he is to that department before he can access it? I know there are privacy provisions but if this is how our public service operates, it is farce of epic proportions.
So, imagine you were living in South Sudan or any number of places in the Middle East and some quite nasty chaps started getting jiggy with AK-47s around the neighborhood. You might be thinking that you and your family would be far better off without a serious dose of lead poisoning and decide to migrate fairly quickly to somewhere much safer, like Australia for instance. Well, hopefully you either read this article or change your mind about Australia before you grab your cash from the mattress and head to the nearest rickety boat because you are in for in for a long haul in beautiful downtown Manus, I would think. In fact, it will be an average of 253 days according to all the statistics and possible 2 years if you cannot produce the document showing how you got from being Miss Hanafi to Mrs Harad.
This system is obviously broken. Badly. If a woman who has lived in Australia for 46 years, worked, paid taxes, married an Australian citizen, given birth to an Australian citizen and can produce about 2000 points of identification cannot be identified and sorted quickly, what hope have these poor buggers from somewhere like South Kamiyaran got?