The desperate hunt is on for the father of a seven-year-old Wagga girl who could prevent her deportation.
With one week until her departure date, the race is now on to determine whether Angela Aseka’s little girl can claim citizenship.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has refused to intervene in the case, despite several calls from Riverina MP Michael McCormack, whose 11th hour bid failed to sway the border boss.
Angela Aseka was in Australia on a student visa when her daughter was born, but immigration officials caught up with her earlier this year, leading to her impending deportation. Despite being born in Australia, seven-year-old Esperanca Aseka will also be deported, but she may be entitled to Australian citizenship if her father was a citizen or permanent resident at the time of her birth.
A petition to let Ms Aseka and her daughter stay in Australia has attracted hundreds of signatures and a Daily Advertiser poll saw almost 90 per cent of respondents throw their support behind the pair.
Wagga African Association (WAfrica) president Samuel Avo said he agreed with the public outcry about the forced removal of a child born in Australia.
“Ask anyone, they’ll consider her to be an Australian,” Mr Avo said.
“She was born here, lived here all of her life, has an Australian birth certificate, so I don’t understand why she has to be sent away.
“We need to work out if (Esperanca’s) father is Australian or not, my understanding is that he’s still here and at the very least a permanent resident, but we can’t confirm if that’s true.”
According to a Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) spokeswoman, in order for an Australian-born baby to become a citizen, at least one of the parents must be an Australian citizen or permanent resident at the time of birth.
It is unknown what Esperanca’s father’s visa status is, but her mother was on a study visa when she was born.
She was born here, lived here all of her life, has an Australian birth certificate, so I don’t understand why she has to be sent away.Samuel Avo, Wagga African Association
“If neither parent is an Australian citizen or a permanent resident, the child acquires the same visa status under the Migration Act as their parents,” the DIBP spokeswoman said.
“Therefore, a child born in Australia to people holding student visas is taken to be granted a student visa at birth with the same terms and conditions as their parents’ visas.”
Belinda Crain from the Multicultural Council of Wagga said it was a rare and unfortunate circumstance.
“This will effect a child born in Australia,” Ms Crain said. “I hope common sense can prevail in this situation.”
Riverina MP Michael McCormack said he fully appreciated the amount of support the small family had from the community but the matter was out of his hands.
“I’ve spoken to the minister’s office and spoken to as many people as I can about this matter,” Mr McCormack said.
“The minister is well aware of the situation but there are processes and protocols to be followed and while for some it may seem straight forward it’s not always as easy as somebody getting in on the proviso that they were born here. I appreciate Angela Aseka is a valued member of the church community and that her daughter was also born here.”