Better to be safe than sorry!
Recently in a neighbouring country to Indonesia there was a crisis when a failed terrorist attack in the “mother country”, England was traced back though a far flung relationship to an unlucky Indian doctor who was living in Queensland, Australia. The doctor was locked up and finally deported. Whenever anyone wanted to question the fairness of what was happening to him the answer came that it was “better to be safe than sorry”. People nodded their heads and agreed and the poor Indian is still out of that country although the authorities have since apologised to him. His visa has not been renewed.
A friend was recently travelling to Australia with his new Indonesian wife. They decided to travel across the archipelago by ship and arrived in Kupang for the last leg of their journey to Australia. They would travel on the sleek Air North Embraer aircraft which travels twice weekly on Saturdays and Tuesdays from Kupang to Darwin, their final destination.
They were a little excited by the prospect because they had been through the rigorous process of obtaining a “spouse” visa from the Australian Embassy in Jakarta. This process takes about five months give or take a little. During that time my friend had lived in Australia and his spouse in Indonesia. He had come back to accompany his wife to Australia as she did not yet speak English.
Kupang was already hot and they were looking forward to leaving it and arriving in Darwin. They arrived early at the airport and went immediately to the counter to get their boarding passes and seat allocation. Everything was going well and they were happy.
Suddenly the girl sitting next to the booking clerk alerted his attention to the computer she was using. The man looked at my friend. He shook his head. He explained that the computer was connected by line directly to an Immigration office in Australia. Every passenger’s name who would board that plane to Australia must be approved by Australian Immigration first. The clerk said apologetically that when my friend’s wife’s name had been entered into the computer it came up with the reply “DO NOT BOARD”.
The upset husband pointed out that the visa in his wife’s passport was newly issued and certainly valid. The clerk apologised and gave my friend some time to see if he could contact the authorities.
My friend went out onto the kerbside of the airport and using his mobile phone tried to contact either the Australian Embassy in Jakarta or the Australian Consulate in Bali. He got many long recorded messages before realising that he was calling on a Saturday and they were all on holiday. Finally he discovered a way of getting an emergency number. This he dialled.
The voice on the other end said “Australian Consular Emergency Service” and my friend went on to explain the circumstances. The voice on the other end had never heard of Kupang. He explained that he was employed to deal with “consular” emergencies and this was a matter for “immigration”.
“Immigration do not have a 24 hour emergency service. You will have to contact them on Monday.”
The plane departed without my friend and his wife.
My friend wrote an email explaining the situation to the Australian Embassy in Jakarta. He then found an internet café in Kupang which opened on a Sunday and sent the email.
On the Monday he was able to use a number that had been given to him during the period of the visa application which got him straight through to one of the people in the consular section of the Australian Embassy in Jakarta. He explained the problem and they said they would fix it so that the computer would give the right answer on the next occasion a plane was leaving for Australia, Tuesday. The letter included three numbers for the DIAC Entry Operations Centre. They also sent a attached email with a letter from the Embassy saying that the visa was perfectly good for entry into Australia. My friend found a printer and printed out this letter.
Tuesday came and again they were early at the airport. Despite the assurances of the people in the Embassy in Jakarta the computer came up with the reply “DO NOT BOARD” as soon as my friend’s wife’s name was entered. My friend presented the letter and three numbers to ring in Australia if they needed verification.
The clerk accepted the letter and allowed the wife to board on this occasion. Needless to say she had no problems when arriving in Darwin.
I include the numbers for contact with the Australian Immigration authorities here in case your life is sometime caught up in the vagaries of this new computer controlled world. The numbers are +61 2 6264 4483, +61 2 6264 1684 and +61 1300 368 126.
It seems that our world is becoming more and more cluttered with hurdles which must be overcome as we travel between ports. The fear of terrorists is also changing our way of life.
A friend who recently left his wallet overseas was unable to send it to himself in Australia by courier as it contained “credit cards’ and “ATM EFTPOS cards”. It was a prohibited import. Likewise any parcel larger than a letter which is sent overseas from Australia must contain a declaration of contents.
We are taking no chances: better to be safe than sorry?
November 1, 2007
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