Your Matters Matter – James

Humanitarian Stories

Your Matters Matter – James

James first came to see us in August 2013. James desperately needed our assistance to help his partner Lisa escape mistreatment at the hands of her employer.

In September 2011, Lisa arrived in Australia on a Domestic Worker (Diplomatic and Consular) visa to work for an overseas Ambassador as a member of their household staff. Little did Lisa know that she would be the only household member to serve a very large residence which would later hold a number of official functions, frequented by visiting dignitaries.

For over two years Lisa was subjected to mistreatment and exploitation by her employer, and slave-like work conditions. She was severely overworked and underpaid, being forced to work 14-18 hours each day for seven days a week without an approved rest period, and paid only $400 a month. These were not the sorts of working conditions that Lisa had hoped for when she arrived in Australia to provide an income for her family.

Lisa sent most of what little income she was paid, back home to support her family, and was eventually forced into a state of poverty while living in Australia.

During her time in Australia, Lisa was not allowed to speak to anyone and could not leave the Embassy. The only opportunity that Lisa had to speak to her family and friends was online after she had finished work, but by that time she was usually too exhausted.

In March 2013, Lisa met James online. They shared their life stories and experiences with each other and quickly realised how much they shared in common. Lisa secretly maintained her relationship with James. They did not meet until May 2013 when Lisa took the opportunity to leave the Embassy in the early hours of the morning, after the Ambassador had left that day. Lisa and James met in secret a few more times before James proposed to Lisa. They married in secret on 2 November 2013 in a small ceremony with close friends and family.

Sadly, shortly after the wedding, Lisa had to return to work at the Embassy. She continued working long hours every day and over the Christmas period without any breaks. Lisa desperately wanted to spend time with her new husband and decided to leave the Embassy without the Ambassador’s knowledge. She had planned on returning without him knowing she had left, however, her plans were cut short when the Ambassador discovered she was not at work and immediately instructed Embassy officials to locate her. Lisa’s fears were realised when she found out that the Ambassador had placed her on an Embassy ‘blacklist’ and sought to have her detained and deported back to her home country. As a result, Lisa could not renew her visa and passport, and most tragic of all, she risked not seeing her newlywed husband in Australia ever again.

Since leaving the Embassy in secret in December 2013, James and Lisa have been happily married, surrounded by many supportive friends and family.

We assisted Lisa with her Partner visa application. Lisa and James had to demonstrate to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (the Department) that they were in a ‘genuine and continuing relationship’ by providing statements and witness statements. Lisa also had to complete a health assessment. We assisted Lisa and James with their statements, however, Lisa did not have a valid passport to complete her health assessment or to actually be granted a visa. We made submissions to the Department that as Lisa was fleeing the Embassy she was not able to return to obtain a new passport and we were successfully able to have this requirement waived.

Given the short period of time that Lisa and James had actually spent living together, we were concerned that she may not meet the threshold for the Partner visa however, in July this year Lisa was granted a Temporary Partner visa. Assuming Lisa and James remain together for the next two years, the visa will be made permanent.

We informed Lisa and James who were overjoyed at the outcome. After reaching out to many different anti-trafficking groups to reach some sort of justice for Lisa without any real resolution, this was finally a relief for them both.

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Your Matters Matter – James