Love versus Goliath – excerpts
These two short excerpts have not been edited: you are about to read the raw first draft. Dangerous, perhaps, but let’s live on the edge a little. Different periods of time are covered here, the excerpts are not sequential chronologically. Out of context, these excerpts will, I
know hope, leave readers with many questions. Good, for when the book is finished, you’ll find the answers you seek. As always, feedback is very welcome!
ASRC = Asylum Seeker Resource Centre DIAC = Department of Immigration & Citizenship S417 A special submission to the Minister
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John arrived in China and gained employment. While working one day, he saw an associate of one of his political enemies. While it is most likely that man was simply there on a business trip unrelated to John’s presence in China, I can understand John’s fear. Given what he had been through, he would not have been in any fit mental state to make entirely rational judgements. He made plans to flee yet again.
Where on earth could he go? By now he had been through Tanzania, Zimbabwe, India, Bangladesh and China. He needed a totally different location. Even if he found one, how was he to get there?
He worried incessantly about his wife and children. He had lost contact with them totally. I remember when we were in Qatar together in early 2011, despite the fact we were all still forced to be apart, he said to me, “I know you think this is a hard time, but for me it is much better than ever before, because now I can call my children every day. I know where they are”. By the time of that visit, we also knew we were on the home stretch to be together.
He had been working in China only a short time. He had no money for a plane ticket anywhere. He was still on a false passport of another nationality. He was still living in fear. He was told Ireland and New Zealand were possible places he could seek asylum.
One day when John was still a young school boy, as he was driven to school his father had noticed one of John’s friends out on the street and asked John why he was not in school. John replied to his father that his parents could not afford the school fees. John’s father asked to meet the child’s parents and offered to pay the school fees of the child and his brother until they finished school. This he did. As a result the childhood friend now had a successful travel agency. Nigerian culture is a culture of collectivism: as John’s father had helped him, so would he help John. He provided a one-way plane ticket to New Zealand.
On March 14, 2008 John boarded a plane to New Zealand. Most airline routes to New Zealand stop in Australia, as did this one. Arriving in Melbourne as a transit passenger, John was refused uplift to New Zealand on the basis he had limited funds available and it was a one-way ticket. I don’t find it at all surprising that New Zealand denied him uplift. Certainly according to the rules, he was a visa over-stay risk and certainly would not have sounded like a tourist.
Imagine his stress. He had been gone from home for three and a half years at this stage. I know he would have boarded the plane in Beijing believing he was finally on the way to a new home, somewhere he could settle and reunite his family. He would find them again, he knew he would. His youngest had been not yet two years old when he left. He knew she would likely not remember him at all. There was hope: hope of a new life.
Now he was stranded in yet another strange land he never intended to be in, had barely heard of. He was still on the false passport. He still had no real identity.
John collapsed to the floor in tears. He declared his true nationality and confessed his passport was false. He sought asylum in Australia.
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The next morning, April 7, was the fatal appointment with DIAC. I was home, putting all my energies into networking and job hunting and resume updating. John rang me to say the ASRC lawyer had not met him at the appointed time and place. I was confident they would turn up, if a little late, and told John to go upstairs to the reception area anyway. I tried to contact the ASRC, but their office doesn’t open until late in the morning. I didn’t have any mobile numbers, neither did John. About half an hour later John called again. “They are taking me into detention now.”
A few minutes later the case manager called me to confirm and said I could visit John at the detention centre. I’m not at all sure he was supposed to call me, but he did. I was still trying to get hold of the ASRC. I’d emailed them, but knew they get a mountain of emails – would they even notice the email?
What should I do? Jump in the car and visit, or keep trying to reach the ASRC? I tried to do both.
I arrived at the detention centre to be told I couldn’t see John. I told them his case manager said I could. They called the Manager of the centre to see me. She told me “DIAC don’t make the decisions here, I do”. Hang on – aren’t Serco contracted to DIAC? What is happening here?
The Manager of the Detention Centre was not going to allow the visit on “medical grounds”. I demanded to see the medical staff. She said I could not. I said I will sit down until you decide I can. It transpired that John had refused to undergo a medical. I would have too – good for him! However, the Manager then saw an opening: John was blackmailed to undergo a medical in order to see me.
Eventually I was allowed a visit. He was drugged to the eyeballs. The man I’d made love to the night before was not there. I was looking at a shell of a man. I asked had they even bothered to check what medication he was already on before they force-fed him medication in detention. No, of course they hadn’t.
I now trusted no-one. I didn’t trust my country. I finally got through to the ASRC and PC was a great emotional support. I don’t think I would have got through the day without her. I didn’t have keys to John’s home, so I “smuggled” the keys out in his laptop bag. I collected a friend and we went to John’s house to find the papers and I dashed to the ASRC to drop them off. I was starting to feel like an espionage operative – in my own damn country! Was what I was doing breaking any laws? I had no idea, but I’d been lied to by my country and I was trying to save the life of the man I loved. ASRC was frantically working to finalise and submit the S417. Some of the papers didn’t fax clearly to the DIAC office and the ASRC had to hand deliver copies the next day. We waited. I kept visiting John, but had to call first each day to make sure I was allowed to visit on medical grounds.
We found out after close of business on the Friday night that DIAC staff had decided “not to place the S417 before the Minister”, something they have the delegated authority to decide. It was a horrible, terrible weekend. I had no idea where to turn or what to do.