Launceston community rallies to save Colombian family from deportation

Home Politics Launceston community rallies to save Colombian family from deportation
Launceston community rallies to save Colombian family from deportation

When Colombian Cesar Penuela met his wife Claudia Castillo in 2007, the couple dreamt of building a life in Australia – becoming residents, buying a home, and raising a family.

They came close to pursuing it, making the journey to Australia 13 years ago, and calling Launceston home for the past five.

But the family now only has days left in the country, after the Administrative Appeals Tribunal refused their application for permanent residency last month.

The couple and their two daughters, Maria and Janah, must leave Australia next week.

“I’m tired, I’m frustrated,” Mr Penuela said.

“I feel that I have let my wife down with this promise that I made to her.”

A smiling family looks at the camera. The youngest girl has her face painted.
The family is involved in the Launceston community.(Supplied)

It is not only his wife he feels has been let down.

“Leaving your last five years behind with kids, it’s not easy because it’s like you’re pulling a tree out of the soil, with the roots and everything — taking your kids from school, leaving friends behind, activities behind, the commodities of Launceston,” he said.

“I feel bad because they have to go through this process, and they haven’t done anything wrong.”

‘Launceston is their life now’

The family has been to-ing and fro-ing with different visas since arriving in Australia, with Mr Penuela working towards permanent residency through regional sponsorship for the past five years.

He has claimed his employer did not provide the necessary documents for his application.

Mr Penuela’s employer was contacted for a response but declined to comment.

The Launceston community has rallied behind the family, and the Northern Rangers Football Club set up a GoFundMe account to help cover legal and immigration costs.

It has garnered more than $5,000 in five days, with a target of $15,000.

Mr Penuela said he was grateful for the community support.

Club board director Nick Scharm said the family was heavily involved in the club and had become an integral part of its volunteer base.

He said it was “a shock” to see them now faced with deportation.

“We will rally behind them as much as we need to; Launceston is their life now and we really want to help them stay here,” he said.

“It comes to putting some pressure on federal politicians and the actual immigration department to consider this situation and … give these guys a decent, honourable, and respectful chance to remain in Australia.”

A man and a woman sit at the opposite end of a table to another woman, speaking seriously.
Claudia and Cesar speak with former St Vincent de Paul Tasmanian chief executive Lara Alexander.(Supplied)

The sentiment was echoed by St Vincent de Paul Society state president Mark Gaetani, who was surprised and disappointed by the imminent deportation of a family that had integrated itself into the community.

The couple has been volunteering for the society’s food bank since the beginning of the year.

“It’s really gut-wrenching to think that a young family, two young girls, are now facing deportation from Australia back to Colombia, and then have to go through the whole process once they’re in Colombia, to reapply to come back to Australia … it just doesn’t make sense,” Mr Gaetani said.

“We’re just calling on the decision makers just to show a little humanity and a little compassion for this family, who are active members of the society here in Launceston.”

Immigration law needs to be made ‘fairer and more accessible’

Greens senator Nick McKim said Australia’s immigration law needed urgent reform.

“It needs to be made fairer, faster, and more affordable, but most importantly it needs a serious dose of humanity, so arbitrary and cruel results like this one do not happen,” he said.

Senator Nick McKim looks away from the camera.
Senator McKim described the ruling as a “cruel result”.(ABC News: Luke Bowden)

Asked whether there should be tougher regulation on employers, Senator McKim said the system was extremely difficult to navigate.

“Getting it wrong at the moment means people are deported or lose the right to ever come to Australia,” he said.

“It should be made simpler, fairer and more accessible. The stakes are already high enough.”

In a statement, Bass MP Bridget Archer said she had met with Immigration Minister Andrew Giles.

“He has provided a positive pathway forward for the family. I have spoken to Cesar and am providing further assistance for the next steps,” she said.

“Thank you to colleagues from across the political aisle and the many community members who have rallied around to assist this family.”

A government spokesperson said the minister was unable to comment on individual cases due to privacy reasons.

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