‘Ripped apart’: Mum fears COVID-19 death if forced out
A TOWNSVILLE mother is terrified of dying of COVID-19, leaving behind a distraught daughter and partner, if the government deports her to pandemic-ravaged Brazil over what she says is a paperwork blunder.
Cassiana Ribeiro, 40, has been told she must leave behind her life in North Queensland, where she has lived for almost a decade, and pay $11,000 to fly back to her place of birth by December 31.
But the Bushland Beach mum isn't leaving without a fight.
"The government are ripping our family apart … I don't think I should sit down and be quiet about this … this is our home," she told the Townsville Bulletin through tears.
Ms Ribeiro, her partner of 15 years and daughter moved to Townsville in 2011, bought their family home a year later, and have lived, worked and served in the community ever since.
She had legally lived in Australia on the skilled visa (189) for many years, but things changed in 2018 when the Immigration Department found an issue with the income Ms Ribeiro lodged on her application.
Ms Ribeiro admits to the "mistake", saying stressful life events and confusion led to the mishap, but the department held firm.
She has desperately been trying to appeal against the department's decision for more than a year but on November 26 she was told she had to go back to Brazil by the end of December.
"They are not giving me any other option than to leave the country," Ms Ribeiro said.
"I work six days a week to support my family, my partner is on shift work and they are trying to take me away from my child."
Ms Ribeiro is terrified of her future if the worst happens, as Brazil hits its second wave of COVID-19 and Australia's border remains firmly shut to non-citizens.
On December 5, there were 639,173 people in Brazil suffering from coronavirus, with more than 40,000 new cases recorded every day since December 1.
More than 170,000 people in Brazil have died since the beginning of the pandemic.
"If I died there … there's a lot on my plate … I have no idea what we'd do.
"My daughter is desperate and in a panic that she is going to lose her mum."
Leaving Townsville is not an option for Ms Ribeiro, who reached out to Herbert MP Phillip Thompson for help.
Mr Thompson said he could feel the pain in Ms Ribeiro's plea and personally gave acting Immigration minister Alan Tudge her concerns in writing while in Canberra on Friday.
"I asked him to go to his department and see where this matter is up to and see what can be done," he said.
"My number one concern is keeping people safe and healthy, and having people travel outside of the country back to a place where the threat of coronavirus is unknown is why I took it directly to the minister.
"I'll always back people in our region."
Mr Thompson said he had asked for a full review into the department's decision and would liaise with the acting minister again this week.
The Department of Home Affairs was contacted for comment, but the Bulletin did not receive a response.
Originally published as 'Ripped apart': Mum fears COVID-19 death if forced out