'I faced the prospect of never seeing my parents again': Scot living in Australia on the struggle to leave the country
Patrick Quinn, 50, went through three failed attempts before finally being granted permission this week to return to Scotland to see his parents, after his mother underwent major surgery.
Mr Quinn, who is originally from Dumbarton, moved to Australia with his wife Anne in 2000 where they raised their children.
He has had to promise to remain away from his adopted homeland of Australia for three months under the conditions of his release from effective quarantine – a period he will have to spend away from his family.
Mr Quinn, who put his first application in on June 26, said on his fourth attempt, he had to quit his job, submit his parents’ medical records, along with proof he had enough money to pay the costs for a hotel to isolate in, before he was granted permission to return to Scotland from Australia.
The father-of-three said: “There are several categories that can be applied under and, based on advice, I have been applying on the basis that I commit to be gone for more than three months for a compelling reason.
"I was advised that to be approved for less than three months was very difficult and have read stories of people trying to go home to be with terminally ill family and being rejected.
"To complete this application, I had to supply a statutory declaration stating my reasons for leaving the country and committing to not return before three months.
"In my final and successful application, I provided my parents’ full medical history – this felt like a total breach of their privacy – and financial statements showing that I could afford the overpriced return flights and hotel quarantine.”
Three states in Australia have re-entered lockdown this month as concerns over Covid cases and low vaccination rates soar, with stay-at-home orders now in place in South Australia, Victoria and parts of New South Wales.
Fewer than 14 per cent of people in Australia are vaccinated – the worst rating among OECD nations.
Australia’s borders have been closed to international arrivals and departures since the start of the pandemic.
When the pandemic hit, Mr Quinn felt Australia was handling the response very strongly, until he found out his elderly mother had to undergo a major operation and he started to look into how to get back to Scotland.
"I made the application on the basis that my parents are elderly – 89 and 90 years old – and have struggled physically and emotionally through the pandemic,” he said.
"They both have several medical conditions and my mum recently underwent major surgery. I have also suffered stress of knowing that I couldn’t get to them in a hurry.”
Mr Quinn was refused permission to leave the country three times in a row, despite explaining his parents’ ill health.
"I submitted three unsuccessful applications, which left me feeling utterly helpless,” he said.
"I honestly felt like the prison walls were up against us and I faced the prospect of never seeing my parents again.
"I thought of my own children, and how I hoped that if it was them separated from me in later life, that they would do whatever it took to get to us.
"The rejections were standard templates, providing no hint at what was missing and lists of general documents that should be provided, including ones I had provided.
"There is no way to contact the Border Force team who process these, and it was only through Facebook groups that I received advice on what to provide.
"In the end, my application had 12 attachments, including the statutory declaration, my birth certificate, parents’ birth certificates, their full medical history obtained from their GP, one of their utility bills to show their address, a letter from them advising that they had struggled with the separation and wanted to see me.
"Also included [was a] bank statement showing I had sufficient funds to be there indefinitely, a letter I wrote to my employer advising that as I would be gone for more than three months, I would be resigning and my vaccination record.”
Mr Quinn said the lifestyle and economic opportunities in Australia were “amazing”, but being away from ageing parents had been “pretty stressful”.
The family lives in south Australia where his wife works as a registered nurse and Mr Quinn was employed by one of the country’s major banks.
The couple’s eldest daughter moved back to Scotland a few years ago to study.
With his application finally accepted, Mr Quinn said he had been reluctant to tell his parents and daughter in Scotland he was applying because he knew they would be “devastated” if he’d failed.
"I only ended up telling them because I had to ask for their medical documents for my fourth attempt,” he said.
“I am also aware that I need to leave my family here in Australia for at least three months, with the possibility of that being much longer.
"Why should I have to make that decision?
"It’s been a long 18 months and it has been better here in Australia than in the UK. Our borders closed in March 2020, but I think we assumed that would be a short-term measure.
“I’ve been angry at the process and at the double standards that exists, with celebrities, sportsmen, actors etc able to come and go from Australia freely.”
The Australian Government website confirms: "If you are seeking
exemption from Australia’s outbound travel restrictions on the basis that you are leaving Australia for three months or longer, your proposed travel must be for a compelling
reason and you must provide evidence to support your claims.”
The Australian Government was approached for further comment.
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