“Now they are in a situation where Odessa is bombed every week or so.
“The troops are heading towards them. They just have one more city before Odessa, so once that city falls, Odessa will be attacked.
The family’s visa applications were rejected last week on the grounds that they failed to meet migration requirements and had not ‘sufficiently demonstrated that they did not intend to visit Australia only temporarily, or that their situation encouraged them to return to their country of origin”.
It is estimated that the Australian government rejected hundreds of Ukrainian refugees and that immigration lawyers were working to help several families at once.
“When the war started, the Australian government put in place this process where you could apply for a visitor’s visa, and once you got to Australia you could apply for the special refugee visa,” Baptista said.
“Now you can only apply for the special refugee visa, [but] you can only apply for the special refugee visa if you are in Australia.
“What has happened in the last three to four weeks is that they have decided that Ukrainians, because they intend to stay longer, no longer comply with the visa rules visitor cards, which state that you must return, you’re just visiting, you’re not staying in Australia.”
This is not the first time that the family has been affected by war. They first lived in eastern Ukraine in Donetsk, but when Russia invaded the Crimean peninsula in 2014, they moved to Odessa.
“I know the beginning was difficult. They had to live in a one-bedroom apartment with many relatives. But then they found jobs and started to rebuild their lives,” Baptista said.
The situation is now exacerbated by a lack of jobs, Baptista said. Kovalova lost her job in the human resources department of a factory because it closed at the start of the war.
“His partner used to work at a baby products company, and now that all the kids, babies, and moms are leaving, they’re actually cutting his hours,” she said.
“They decided to leave the father behind because he has no right to leave. [because of conscription in Ukraine].”
An Home Affairs spokesperson said the department would not comment on individual cases but would prioritize visa applications from Ukrainian nationals, “particularly those with a strong personal connection to Australia”.
The ministry said applications are assessed on merit and considered against the requirements for a visitor’s visa set out in the legislation.
Since Feb. 23, the department said it had issued more than 8,000 mostly temporary visas to Ukrainians, and more than 3,200 of the visa holders had arrived in Australia.
Kateryna Argyrou, co-chair of the Australian Federation of Ukrainian Organizations, said there were no official statistics on the number of Ukrainians rejected, judging by the number of people who had contacted the group, it would be hundreds.
“The biggest challenge with the visa application process right now is the massive financial burden of medical screening fees,” Argyrou said.
She said the majority of people who arrived from Ukraine were women and children, and there were challenges once they landed in Australia.
“Some of them arrive with nothing more than a small suitcase in their name, they don’t yet have the level of English necessary to enter the workforce immediately, and they still have to find a way to take care of their children,” Argyrou said.
The process of transitioning to a 786 visa, which is only available to Ukrainian refugees already in Australia, is also problematic, she said.
“If they can’t afford the medical check-up fee — typically $330 to $430 per person, or more than $1,000 for a mother of two — they won’t be able to upgrade from the 449 visa to the 786 visa. , which provides access to Medicare,” she said.
“So we are concerned at this time that mothers, babies and the elderly are stuck in limbo and unable to get basic healthcare or access to GPs, which is very worrying.”
Argyrou said the issue of medical check fees had been raised and the federation was in talks with Home Affairs to try to find a solution.