Your Matters Matter – Evan

Humanitarian Stories

Your Matters Matter – Evan

By Kirsty MacDonald and Amy Burton

Evan first made contact with Salvos Legal in November 2016, when he made an appointment for telephone advice. He had just been placed in immigration detention after the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (‘Department’) cancelled his permanent Protection visa.

After hearing Evan’s story, Salvos Legal agreed to assist him to appeal the Department’s decision to cancel his visa.

Before Evan arrived in Australia, he was very active within the Christian Church in Egypt. As a result of his commitment to his religion, he was detained, mistreated and terrorized by government authorities and radical Islam groups. After he received death threats from these groups, he decided that the only way he could survive was to leave Egypt.

This was a very difficult decision for Evan to make, as it involved leaving his wife and four sons (who went into hiding to be safe).

Shortly after arriving in Australia in 2011, the Department granted Evan a permanent Protection visa on the basis that it was not safe for him to return to Egypt. He started working and saving as much as possible so that he could sponsor his wife and sons to come to Australia as soon as he obtained Australian citizenship.

Unfortunately, in early 2014 Evan was informed that his four sons had been kidnapped on their way home from school in Egypt. To secure their safe return, the kidnappers demanded a ransom of 1,000,000 Egyptian Pounds (approximately $82,500).

Despite the significant risks he faced in Egypt, Evan decided he had no option but to return there to help save his sons. Two weeks later, Evan travelled to Egypt. He was able to safely pass through airport security because his brother arranged a bribe.

He spent the next few months in hiding in an apartment, making arrangements to sell his property and obtain loans from family members so that he could raise enough money to pay the ransom. Once Evan raised enough money, his brother paid the ransom on his behalf and the family was reunited.

Evan then arranged for his wife and children to move to a different part of Egypt where they could safely reside until he could bring them to Australia.

Sadly, Evan’s wife died from a heart attack three days after he arrived back in Australia.

Over a year after his return to Australia, Evan was notified that the Department was considering cancelling his Protection visa. The Department believed that he had lied in his initial Protection visa application because he was able to return to Egypt without being harmed by government authorities or radical Islam groups.

A few months later, Evan’s Protection visa was cancelled. We agreed to assist him with his appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.  We needed to demonstrate to the Tribunal that when Evan applied for a Protection visa in 2011, he faced a genuine and significant risk of harm from government authorities and radical Islam groups in Egypt.

To support Evan’s case, we helped him prepare a detailed statement outlining the reasons why he needed to return to Egypt in 2014, the steps he took to secure the release of his sons and proof that he faced ongoing risks in Egypt.  Evan worked hard to gather evidence, including a certified copy of the contract for the sale of his property, character references from his support network in Australia and reports from his doctor and psychologist.

A few days later, we were informed of the Tribunal’s decision to reinstate Evan’s permanent Protection visa. When we called Evan to inform him of the successful result, he was already being released from immigration detention. He told us he would be staying with a friend for a few nights and he would call back shortly.

Two days later, one of Evan’s support workers called to inform us that Evan hadn’t been able to stay with his friend and had been sleeping on the streets. We immediately called Evan and referred him to a number of emergency accommodation services. When we tried to call Evan later that afternoon to check on his progress, his phone was turned off. His support worker was also unable to reach him.

In an amazing turn of events, four days later the Solicitor who represented Evan bumped into him while she was waiting for a train in Western Sydney.  Evan explained that he had had to sell his mobile phone because he needed money for food. The Solicitor immediately contacted the Chaplains at Salvos Legal, who were able to organise emergency accommodation for him.

Evan is now receiving housing and social support from The Salvation Army, while he finds his feet again. Once his life is a little more stable, we look forward to helping Evan obtain his Australian citizenship and helping him to sponsor his four sons to come to Australia.

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