David McLennan and Hamish Boland-Rudder June 01, 2012
Expelled ... Syrian charg d'affaires Jawdat Ali has until 4pm today to leave Australia. Photo: Andrew Meares
Friends and teachers of the daughter of an expelled Syrian diplomat are trying to bring her back into Australia to complete her education, after she was thrown out of the country.
The 17-year-old has spent the past four years at Canberra schools and was just months from completing her year 12 certificate and International Baccalaureate.
Syrian charge d’affaires Jawdat Ali’s family, whose visas were based on his, were also expelled when a 72-hour ultimatum for him to leave Australia ran out at 5pm. They flew out of Canberra just on the deadline, then left Sydney later last night.
The Australian government expelled Mr Ali and another Syrian diplomat after the massacre at Haoula.
Mr Ali’s daughter spent most of the day saying goodbye to friends at Canberra College, where she was a popular student.
Her friends’ parents, with the support of the school, have been trying to help her get a student visa, allowing her to complete her studies and several have offered to host her until the end of the year.
Her principal, John Stenhouse, said the girl was ‘‘someone who we thought was worthy of some special consideration’’.
One of her teachers, Judy Talberg, described her as ‘‘collateral damage’’ and appealed to Foreign Minister Bob Carr. ‘‘The majority of her education has been done in Australia,’’ Ms Talberg said.
‘‘She won’t be able to fit into a school in Syria. It’s absolutely tragic that she will not be able to continue on her education.
‘‘I don’t see how this collateral damage of an extra young women’s future is going to make any difference to [Syrian President Bashar] al-Assad.
‘‘Everybody’s been in tears ... they understand politics, but what they don’t understand is why three months would make any difference to anybody.’’
A spokesman for Senator Carr said the expulsion applied to all members of Mr Ali’s family, because their visas were dependent on his. While a family member of an Israeli ambassador had been allowed to stay for six months after that diplomat was expelled in 2010, the spokesman said there had been no request from Mr Ali’s family for his daughter to be allowed to stay.
The spokesman could not say whether a request would have been granted, but said diplomats’ family members had also been forced to leave in a number of other countries, too, after the international push to expel Syrian ambassadors.
He said Australians were appalled at the massacres in Syria and the expulsions were a method for the international community to express that outrage.
Mr Stenhouse said she had a large group of friends and was a model student, ‘‘one that we are very proud of’’. The school was trying to support her, without making any comment on the situation in Syria or the diplomatic issues around it, Mr Stenhouse said.
‘‘Other people are better qualified to handle that. Our point of view is that it is a talented young woman who this time last week was on track to finish school with a very promising future in tertiary education and that has now disappeared,’’ he said.
‘‘It is her misfortune that she is caught up in events that are of elsewhere. She has been in Canberra for four years, at Melrose High and Canberra College,’’ he said.
She had done about 150 hours of community service – charity work and fund-raising – over the past 18 months as part of her International Baccalaureate program.
‘‘That’s an extraordinary amount of time for a student who is doing a very challenging academic program to be contributing,’’ he said.
The school had provided a letter of support to a campaign to help keep her in Australia. The girl’s friends’ parents are lobbying to get her a student visa.
The girl would be able to return as a fee-paying international student, but only if she was given a student visa.
A spokesman for Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said it was inappropriate to comment about potential visa applications.
‘‘All visa applications are considered independently on their merits, on a case by case basis,’’ he said.