A WOMAN working with the Irish Support Agency in Sydney has said that "the devil is in the detail" for the recently announced Australian border reopening on 21 February.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison made the announcement on Monday that the borders of the country would be reopening to those who are fully vaccinated from that date.
Paula Cobain, a co-ordinator with the agency, said the last two years have been particularly tough for temporary VISA holders, "who were, in the first instance, ineligible for government supports and then unable to avail of the exemption to leave process that was open to permanent residents and citizens hoping to return home on compassionate grounds."
She said that while most of the Irish Support Agency team have permanent residency/citizenship and have been allowed to leave the country since November, it is "still unclear if those on Covid (408) VISAs will be permitted to leave and return."
"I understand this is not supported by the legislation," Paula said.
"Parents of those with PR/Citizenship have also been able to travel here this last few months, so the announcement really only impacts those temporary VISA holders not on the original list.
"Unfortunately there are a whole host of people who transferred to this VISA when their Working Holiday VISAs expired and they will have to await clarification before booking their tickets.
"Unfortunately even the migration lawyers have variable interpretations of this, so the champagne is definitely on hold for now."
Paula said that throughout the past two years, many people chose "to abandon the adventure and return home."
"Those who did stay faced a very uncertain future," she said. "Many had built a life here for themselves and their family and returning home was just not an option."
"Over time, the angst being experienced within the Irish community grew as the reality of the new border restrictions became apparent."
She said people "felt trapped" and "separated from friends and families", and missed life events such as marriages, christenings and saying goodbye to loved ones.
"That aspect has been particularly tragic, watching people grappling with really difficult decisions at a time of crisis within their families."
Paula's two sons live in London, one of whom has just been approved for a VISA to travel to Australia this weekend, so she said she understands the excitement of reunions that will face Irish people in the country in the coming weeks and months.
"Thankfully for many, this announcement will be met with considerable excitement as families plan their long awaited reunions and grandparents meet the new babes and bubs for the very first time.
"It serves as a reminder to us all of the very difficult decisions made by the emigrating Irish over the years, long before Skype and Facetime!"