Lankan family in Australia facing deportation following father’s death | Daily News

Lankan family in Australia facing deportation following father’s death

SYDNEY: Florence Udawatta is losing sleep and suffering from heart palpitations from worrying. She and her children Ruvish, Jeniffer and Duane are facing the prospect of removal from the community they have come to love and which has grown to love them.

Their regional town of Kempsey in New South Wales is rallying, demanding the Federal Government lets them stay. The family’s conundrum is rare. They are facing deportation because of a tragic death that could not have been prevented. Udawatta moved to Kempsey in 2016 to join her husband Rajitha Udawatta, who migrated from Sri Lanka on a 457 temporary work visa two years earlier.

He was the primary visa holder for the family and soon became well-liked in the community. As a mechanic, he often helped fix people's cars on weekends and after hours at no extra cost. Once reunited, the family threw themselves into community life and became devoted members of the Christian outreach church.

Each week, Udawatta packs food parcels and delivers them to the homeless, while her 17-year-old son, Ruvish, is a youth group leader and has just been elected vice-captain of his school. His goal is to study medicine and work as a doctor in a regional area. Hirushi, his older sister, is training to become a chef.

Their siblings, eight-year-old Jeniffer and seven-year-old Duane pray every morning before jumping on the school bus with beaming smiles. Family friend and church pastor Moira Hodgekiss said the Udawattas were an immigration ‘success’ story. But the past few years have not been easy.

Raj Udawatta was diagnosed with a terminal illness in 2018 and became so ill he could no longer work — a key requirement of his temporary skilled visa. Fearing deportation, Florence Udawatta applied for protection visas. She had not heard back from the Department of Immigration when the family celebrated her husband's 50th birthday in September. A day later, he died.

"Before he went off with the nurse, he hugged me and the kids," she recalled. Less than a month later, the department notified Ms Udawatta that her protection visa applications had been rejected. It gave her one month to appeal the decision or leave the country.

"I am shocked. I can't understand what is happening to us," she said. The department said the family was unlikely to be persecuted in Sri Lanka and had a house in Colombo they could live in. But the family argued their home — and community — was now in Kempsey. Hirushi Udawatta is now on a student visa and can remain in the country, but she cannot bear the thought of saying goodbye. "We didn't even get to finish grieving and we have to look for a reason to stop my family getting deported," she said. Her brother's close friend, Cameron Jeffery, said it would be an "injustice" if Ruvish had to leave. She is hoping that Acting Immigration Minister Alan Tudge will intervene.

Former immigration lawyer and first-term federal Nationals MP Pat Conaghan said the Minister should use discretionary powers to allow the family to stay on compassionate grounds.

(ABC News)