Thursday, May 12, 2005

Archival Rescue 26 ~ AUS Detention & deportation

Deported women found in convent
By Connie Levett in Bangkok and Lisa Pryor
May 12, 2005 Sydney Morning Herald

Vivian Solon, the mentally disturbed woman who was wrongly deported from Australia, was told she was being sent to a convent in the Philippines shortly before she was deported.

Social workers who visited her yesterday said she was terrified authorities would arrest her and put her in jail again.

Ms Solon - who is also known as Vivian Alvarez, Vivian Young and Vivian Wilson - has been staying at the Missionaries of Charity convent in Olongapo, east of Manila, for several weeks.

Father Shay Cullen, the head of the Preda Foundation, a human rights charity, said she was still "very nervous" but was being well cared for by the sisters.

"At first, she was worried that the authorities were coming after her to put her in jail," Father Cullen said.

"[The social workers] pledged to help her in any way she wants. We know her background, she is mentally disturbed. She has been harassed and is in shock from the trauma. She is a very nervous type," he said.

Father Cullen said he was told Ms Solon had a "certain paranoia", which was "not surprising if you had been harassed like that".

"We will talk to her. If her rights have been violated, we will be getting her story out," he said.

Father Mike Duffin, an Australian priest working at St Vincent's Catholic Church in the Olongapo, said he was surprised Australian officials did not know where Ms Solon was, because they had told her she was going to a convent before she was deported.

"I find that very, very hard to believe when they were the ones who told her before she left," he told the ABC.

Ms Solon now walks with the aid of a walking stick and has been housed with elderly people who are dying.

Father Duffin did not believe she was mentally disturbed. "She's a very quiet woman, very soft spoken and very very sane."

Ms Solon has been under the care of the church for the past four years. Father Duffin first became fully aware of her situation when he saw a story about her on satellite television recently.

"As soon as they said 'Vivian', I knew that's our Vivian."

Ms Solon told Father Duffin she had been deported after a car accident because she did not have a passport.

The Immigration Minister, Amanda Vanstone, said in a statement last night she had been advised by her department that Philippine police, at the request of the Australian ambassador, had spoken with nuns in a convent in the northern Philippines about Ms Solon, but Ms Solon was not there at that time .

"Australian consular officials are being dispatched to the region overnight to ensure that if, in fact, the woman is the Ms Alvarez [Ms Solon] who was removed from Australia, all appropriate consular assistance can be offered to her first thing in the morning," Senator Vanstone said.

"This will obviously include an offer to facilitate her return to Australia, if that is her wish, and appropriate support in Australia."

When she was deported in 2001, Ms Solon was listed as a missing person and was suffering a mental illness. Her son, now nine, has been living in foster care in Queensland since February 2001 when Ms Solon failed to pick him up from day care in Brisbane.

Yesterday, Labor and the minor parties joined in the Senate to censure Senator Vanstone over detention bungles.


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