IF Elenita Fernandez doesn’t travel to the Philippines next week, she’ll miss her daughter’s 18th birthday and will have gone almost a decade without seeing her.
If she does go and the Australian government doesn’t welcome her back, the 103-year-old holocaust survivor she cares for in Sydney believes he will die.
The 43-year-old live-in carer has been looking after Richard Roberts for nine years now.
Mr Roberts, who suffers diabetes, a heart condition, and various other health issues and is believed to be the country’s oldest holocaust survivor, is completely reliant on her 24-hour care. But a decision from the immigration department is threatening to separate the two.
Ms Fernandez has made a promise to her daughter to return for her 18th birthday, which she says is an extremely important milestone in her culture and for her family.
With Ms Fernandez currently on a bridging visa that doesn’t allow her to return to Australia, she is unlikely to be allowed to return to Australia to continue to nurse Mr Roberts into his final years if she leaves.
As the department delays its decision on granting Mr Fernandez a visa that will allow her to return, urgency is building. Her daughter’s birthday is only two weeks away and she had hoped to be home and reunited with her children next week.
One of Mr Roberts’ relatives, Linda Haefeli, has started a change.org petition addressed to the department of immigration and Minister Peter Dutton to grant Mr Roberts his wish by allowing his carer to return.
“He knows how important it is to keep that promise to her daughter, but he says ‘if she can’t come back I believe I will die,’” she told news.com.au.
“His physical state is fading, he’s bedridden and his heart is weak, but Lenie is always there be his side and she knows what he wants and he just depends no her so much. They’re joined at the side.”
Elenita was introduced to Mr Robert’s family by a mutual connection nine years ago when his wife was suffering dementia. Before Mrs Roberts died, she asked Ms Fernandez to care for her husband as his health began to diminish.
In staying with the family, Ms Fernandez has left her children behind in the Philippines.
“They understand what she’s doing for them, working and supporting them, but now with this birthday, it’s all sort of come to a head,” Ms Haefeli says.
“She’s so torn, crying all the time, she hasn’t been sleeping. Richard’s getting worse too, he’s very stressed about all this and he’s looking very worn. He’s getting worse.”
Ms Haefeli will accompany Ms Fernandez at a meeting with immigration officials this afternoon.
She plans to present representatives from the department with the petition, which has so far attracted more than 15,500 signatories.
“If that doesn’t work, we don’t know what will happen. We just don’t know,” she says.
In a statement prepared for news.com.au, a spokeswoman for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection confirmed the department was aware of the matter.
“We are working to provide this individual with as much information and support as possible to help her make a decision about her intended travel plans,” the statement said.
“We will look to treat any application made by this individual taking into consideration all the circumstances and taking as broad a view as possible, however all decisions must be made in accordance with the law.”