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Campaign to keep family together


Local refugee advocates are urging the Federal Government to intervene in the case of a Sri Lankan asylum seeker facing deportation next month despite his wife and child having the right to remain in Australia under recent changes to immigration policy.

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Nobert Eltran is among a group of refugees who arrived in Australia 10 years ago and were placed on bridging visas because they came on boats after the arbitrary cut-off date of 2013.

His wife, Vinotha, has a Safe Haven Enterprise Visa and under the new policy should be granted a visa together with their nine-month-old baby, David.

They have been living in Adelaide for the past 12 months but recently moved back to Brisbane where they have a strong support network through Nobert’s involvement with the Catholic parish of Jubilee.

Henley Beach parishioners John and Anne Haren, who have been assisting Nobert and his family through the Circle of Friends, have initiated a letter-writing campaign to politicians to enlist support for intervention by the Immigration Minister Andrew Giles.

Mr Haren said while he welcomed the Federal Government’s announcement that the current holders of Temporary Protection and Safe Haven visas would be granted permanent visas with potential pathways to citizenship, the decision did not provide the same opportunity for another group of people who seek asylum and refuge in Australia.

“This group, numbering in the thousands, still faces uncertainty with the possibility of being returned to the country they have fled despite the fact that they have been in Australia for 10 years,” Mr Haren said.

“I know by the actions of the Prime Minister in relation to the Biloela family that he has a great degree of compassion for this group of people. The irony of this recent announcement is that if the Biloela family was still seeking a visa they would not be granted one under this latest policy.”

Mr Haren said the Eltran family was in a similar situation to the Biloela family. Nobert arrived by boat from India in April 2013 and is currently on a Bridging Visa E which expires on March 30 this year.

He has been advised that he will be deported to his place of birth, Sri Lanka, unless he departs voluntarily. Nobert has lived most of his life in refugee camps in India.

“Nobert and Vinotha met and married in Australia,” Mr Haren said.

“Vinotha has significant health problems which restrict her ability to physically care for their baby son alone. David was born 13 weeks premature and spent three challenging months in hospital, but has survived to be a much-loved and cherished son.

“Apart from being a close-knit family, the prospect of Vinotha caring for David on her own, given her physical limitations, is a traumatic notion for them.”

Mr Haren said Nobert had been a contributor to the Australian community ever since his arrival.

“He has formed strong relationships with Australian citizens and has been welcomed into the community,” he said.

“He has sustained periods of employment and voluntary work for all of the 10 years since attaining work rights. He has contributed positively through his work as maintenance person, carer for a person with a disability, support worker in aged care, driver for a number of people including the Catholic Archbishop of Brisbane, as a labourer for an agricultural company and recycler for a waste management company. Moreover, he has embraced Australian values and seeks only to do good in the community.”

Brisbane Archdiocese’s official publication, The Catholic Leader, published a story in 2017 about Nobert and how he had been embraced by the parishioners of Sacred Heart Church, Rosalie, where he worked for parish priest Fr Peter Brannelly.

Baptised Catholic in the 1990s, he was the groundskeeper for the Jubilee parish’s six churches and three schools, the weekly greeter at the front of the church before the Saturday Vigil Mass and undertook regular maintenance work for parishioners.

Mr Haren is asking people to write letters to Members of Parliament to bring Nobert’s case to their attention and to explain that the best interests of the child are for Norbert to stay in Australia.

To find out more, contact John Haren on 0481 573 544 or


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