Nak flies off to an uncertain future
By Andra Jackson
February 26, 2005/the AGE
Nak Assavatheptavee, centre, at the airport with his father Charoon, left, sister Nat, brother Niq and niece Katie.
Photo: Angela Wylie
Fifteen-Year-Old schoolboy Nak Assavatheptavee's hopes of a last-minute reprieve from deportation yesterday afternoon were dashed by Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone.
Clutching a teddy bear and chocolate heart presented by 20 of his Thornbury Northcote Secondary College classmates at the airport, he said: "I am not happy at all."
He said he was confident the family would be reunited when they had raised the $35,000 they needed to make a new visa application.
"We'll just have to raise the money... and reapply and come back," he said.
But as Nak flew out to an uncertain future, 104-year-old Chinese woman Cui Yu Hu came a step closer to being permitted to stay after intervention by Prime Minister John Howard, who said the case lacked compassion and common sense.
Mr Howard also said he would like to know more about Nak's case.
Nak and his father Charoon were given until yesterday to leave the country after the rejection of an application for a permanent visa.
Because Nak is under 18 he is listed on his father's visa, so he came under the same order to leave, while other members of the family have been allowed to stay.
Mr Howard said: "I think even separately from anything I might say to her, Amanda Vanstone will have something to say about it."
Thornbury Northcote Secondary College principal Peter Egeberg said Senator Vanstone's response that there was no need to re-examine the case showed "there is no compassion with this Government".
Senator Vanstone told the ABC that Nak's father had his original spouse visa cancelled on grounds of "character".
A stunned Nak interrupted his farewells to say he knew nothing of the allegation.
He had said previously that his father's earlier spouse visa was cancelled at the request of his father's former partner, with whom he fell out.
Senator Vanstone insisted that Nak could not have stayed in Australia as he would have been living with his 21-year-old sister Nat, who was sending her daughter Katie, 4, back to Thailand.
"Nak's father is also taking his granddaughter back to Thailand because he is the carer. Nak's sister is not going to continue to look after her daughter and so I can't see where that would be appropriate for a 15-year-old boy to stay with someone whose child is going back to Thailand.
"It's always sad when someone who wants to stay in Australia has to leave - it's sad for them and it's sad for their family and friends. But we don't have a rule that if you come to Australia and overstay your visa because you make friends (then) we'll let you stay," she said
A distraught Nat responded that she was reluctantly sending her daughter back with her father so he could continue the child-minding role that has enabled her to work to support the family.
Speaking on 3AW about Mrs Hu, Mr Howard said there was room for compassion and common sense in immigration.
He said he would talk to Senator Vanstone about the case. Senator Vanstone confirmed last night that there had later been communication with the Prime Minister's office.
Asked if Mr Howard had effectively criticised her department, she said: "There is always room for compassion and common sense in immigration cases. I agree with the Prime Minister completely on that issue."
Mrs Hu has been in Australia for 10 years, living with her adopted daughter Motoko and her son-in-law, and was turned down for an aged parent visa.