Family’s uncertainty continues

Gagandeep Singh (right) with wife Phoebe and son Jarro, 4. Photo: Stefan Bradley

Stefan Bradley

A GIPPSLAND family is once again facing an uncertain future as a change of federal government stalls father, husband and businessman Gagandeep Singh’s immigration case.

In April, the Gippsland Times broke the story of Gagandeep facing deportation to India, separating him from his wife Phoebe and their four-year-old son Jarro, who live together in Sale.

The saga has been ongoing for more than a decade, and the change of federal government last month is the latest in a series of bureaucratic stumbles and red tape that has moved proceedings along at a sluggish pace.

A teary Gagandeep told A Current Affair that Jarro thinks his dad is the coolest because he drives a truck, and the very real prospect of being away from him for years is tearing him apart inside.

“He’s four, how can I explain to him? It’s hard to explain that daddy will be going away for two, could be three years,” Gagandeep said.

“How? He won’t understand.”

Gagandeep and Phoebe’s immigration lawyer, Joseph Italiano, said the federal government should see that Gagandeep is gainfully employed.

The Immigration Minister can give or deny Gagandeep a visa, and does not have to provide a reason either way.

He has had other visa applications denied and is currently in Australia on a Bridging Visa. Gagandeep can be given a permanent partner visa by stroke of a pen.

“Gagandeep has always been legal in this country, he’s never broken the immigration laws at all,” Phoebe said.

The family received a letter of support from the Federal Member for Gippsland, Darren Chester, for a Ministerial Intervention that was sent to then-Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews in March.

The letter states that Gagandeep is not subject to any character concerns and has a clean police record.

Mr Chester spoke highly of the family when he spoke to A Current Affair, shortly before the federal election.

“I’ve written a letter of support for the family, because I recognise that they’ve got a legitimate case to put to the Minister,” Mr Chester said.

“They’ve been employing people and keeping themselves employed at a time when we need people who want to make their contribution to our region.”

At one point, Gagandeep employed two full-time truck drivers, but had to let them go after downsizing his business due to the real possibility of deportation.

Before the election, the Immigration Minister was Alex Hawke from the Liberal Party, with Karen Andrews the Minister for Home Affairs.

The new Immigration Minister is Labor’s Andrew Giles, with Clare O’Neil taking over the Home Affairs portfolio.

On May 25, the family had received an email saying the Ministerial Intervention Unit (MIU) had denied their application for an intervention, even though the new Immigration Minister was not sworn in until June 1.

The document enclosed, seen by the Gippsland Times, says the Ministerial Intervention was “not referred”.

Mr Italiano said this means the MIU refused to forward the repeat request to Mr Hawke just before the election, so it’s unlikely that Mr Hawke ever saw the request.

“They refused to give it to (then-Minister Alex Hawke) because they say it was not consistent with his guidelines,” Mr Italiano said.

“They should grant (a visa) on a monthly basis for departure arrangements while the new Minister considers it.

“It’s a carryover of the previous government, or a refusal of the previous government.

“It’s pretty shocking when the public service says they will not give it to the Minister. They chose to uphold the previous decision. That decision is three and a half years old. The child is four now, not in nappies, and COVID is a factor. They probably haven’t read it.

“I’ve made a new request to the new Minister Andrew Giles based in Mill Park. (Gagandeep) has applied for a new Bridging Visa E last Friday (June 10). Giles has refused six calls made by A Current Affair.

“I have an identical case before the MIU and the former Minister involving a 3 1/2 year old Australian child and a spouse with no health issues.

“This family is being asked for further details suggesting to me that the MIU will recommend Ministerial intervention or else this information would not have been requested. The inconsistencies are inexplicable and unjust.”

Phoebe said the uncertainty was “not a great feeling at all”.

“(Gagandeep) didn’t go to work (after the intervention was denied), he was so upset,” she said.

Phoebe said she started ringing both the new Home Affairs and Immigration Ministers.

“I rang Andrew Giles’ office almost every day. They take my name and details and say that they will get back to me, but they never do,” Phoebe said.

“I also rang the new Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil. They wanted more information about the situation and seemed genuinely interested. I sent them everything they wanted.”

On June 7, Ms O’Neil’s office told Phoebe that Mr Giles had received a submission from Mr Italiano and that Mr Giles would respond to the case.

Mr Giles’s Ministerial Office was contacted for comment, who referred this reporter to the Department of Home Affairs media team as it involves an individual case.

The media team said after the deadline for this story that they were still working on a response to send to the Gippsland Times.

The Gippsland Times spoke to Gagandeep on Wednesday. He said he was supposed to receive an update the day before, but had not heard anything.

“There seems to be a staff shortage in the department. At the moment I feel like I’m in the middle of nowhere. I lodge applications, but don’t get a call back. It’s very devastating. We ring (the Minister) everyday, no updates from that side either,” Gagandeep said.

“Phoebe has had stress. I don’t really express my feelings to her, because if I break down too, it’s going to be hard for both of us. If we are both miserable, how is Jarro going to cope with everything?”

Asked what it would mean to get a permanent partner visa, Gagandeep said he would be thankful to everyone that helped him.

“My next plan would be to have another child. I would like to expand my truck business, get Australia moving again. I can hire more employees and get another truck,” he said.

The online petition for Gagandeep to stay in Australia with his family has over 1700 signatures on at the time of writing.

The petition can be signed at

Update: The Home Affairs media team has sent a response that comes as Gagandeep’s bridging visa is extended until September.

“The Department does not comment on individual cases,” the email says, alongside a series of dot points outlining policies and processes.

On Wednesday, Mr Italiano emailed the Gippsland Times to say that Gagandeep had been “granted a BVE (Bridging Visa E) until 15 September 2022 on departure arrangements until new Minister makes final determination. ”