Australian government splits hairs with dual citizens requesting travel exemptions

Australia is rejecting a number of requests made by dual citizens to return to Greece.

An Australian government spokesman from the Department of Home Affairs told Neos Kosmos that out of the 4,002 applications for travel exemptions, 2,937 were approved and 1,065 were rejected.

Requests are being examined on a case-by-case bases, however numerous dual citizens who seem to fall within the guidelines of the Department of Home Affairs have seen their claims rejected for reasons which are unclear.

Con Paivanas has not been granted the right to travel to Greece despite falling into a number of categories which would deem him a suitable candidate for immediate departure. Before COVID-19 he had sold his house in Australia to spend the eighth decade of his life with his children in Greece. His wife has already left, but Mr Paivanas stayed behind to take care of loose ends.

“I’ve sold my house and my belongings are in storage in Greece, so I stay at a room at a monastery,” he told Neos Kosmos. “All I wanted was to live the remainder of my years close to my children.”

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Instead, he is alone without his belongings.

The situation has exacerbated his wife’s condition and has not helped his own health.

Mr Paivanas has turned to the Greek Consulate General for assistance, and is now dealing with the bureaucracy of gathering paperwork for a certificate of intent to live abroad.

There have been 2,883 people who have requested to leave Australia on compassionate or humanitarian grounds, and 694 of these applications have been rejected.

Anastasia Dimitriou, a dual citizen who was born and raised in Greece by her grandfather, made an application to leave Australia – her home for the last one and a half years – after she found out that the man who raised her has terminal cancer and not long to leave.

She applied for an exemption on 24 April and has yet to receive a response either way.

“I call them daily, begging for them to answer so that I can search for an earlier flight. I honestly don’t know why they are playing with our psychology as though this is a game or an experiment,” she said, adding that the response is a not-so-genuine ‘So sad, no stress’ comment.

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Greek and Australian passports.

Anxiety has taken a toll. “I can’t sleep and my eczema has flared from the stress,” she said, adding that it is inhumane to delay giving a response in cases of urgency. She worries that her grandfather will die without her seeing him one last time.

A spokesman from the department told Neos Kosmos that there are many categories of exemptions. “People who ordinarily reside in another country are also exempt,” the spokesman said.

A dual citizen told Neos Kosmos that she completed the paperwork necessary for her to return back to her home after a 3-month stay in Australia, but her application was rejected. Wishing to remain anonymous, she told Neos Kosmos the reason she was given for the rejection was that she should not have applied for a travel exemption in the first place.

Dual citizens who share their time between Greece and Australia are caught in limbo. Evangelia Papageorgiou and Alexandros Evgenias spend half the year in Greece and the other six months in Australia. “We arrived on 7 October,” said Mr Evgenias. “We had return flights booked for 8 April but were forced to cancel these due to COVID-19. Now were are stuck here and cannot leave. We pay $300 per week in rent for a room though our house is in Greece.”

Neos Kosmos reached out to Australia’s Department of Home Affairs for clarifications regarding the way in which travel exemptions are assessed and the exact criteria required for each category however has yet to receive a response and has been told that the department does not comment on individual cases.

Instead, the department has supplied us with the following information:

Exemptions to allow travel overseas may be granted under one of the following categories:

  • your travel is as part of the response to the COVID-19 outbreak, including the provision of aid;
  • your travel is essential for the conduct of critical industries and business (including export and import industries);
  • you are travelling to receive urgent medical treatment that is not available in Australia;
  • you are travelling on urgent and unavoidable personal business;
  • for compassionate or humanitarian grounds;
  • your travel is in the natioanl interest.

People who ordinarily reside in another country are also exempt.