Asma Mukhi can’t help but cry when she thinks about the situation that has kept her husband stranded overseas for the past eight months.
“I’m really, really struggling with living here in Darwin,” said the 29-year-old, who arrived from India in July last year to be with her husband, Salman.
In March this year, Salman — who had already been living in Australia for four years — flew back to India for what was supposed to be a brief visit to see his family.
But the day before the temporary visa holder was due to return, Australia shut its borders to non-citizens as the coronavirus pandemic intensified.
For Asma, navigating her new life in the Top End without knowing when her husband would be allowed to return has caused deep anxiety and depression.
“Please understand our situation, what we are suffering here,” she said.
Temporary visa holders can apply to the Australian Border Force for special exemptions to enter the country, including for compassionate reasons.
But Salman, who had been working as a junior accountant in Darwin, has had his applications denied 11 times.
“But I think they should too understand, as a human,” Asma said, before her voice trailed off as she began to cry.
“I’m happy to pay whatever ticket rate, whatever quarantine rate, but I just want him back,” she said.
Temporary visa holder Vidhi Patel is also stranded overseas.
“It is a very painful situation,” said the 26-year-old, who has been living in Darwin for three years with her partner Bilman but was visiting family in India when the new travel restrictions took effect.
But her exemption application requests have been rejected 13 times.
Despite this, she said the couple was still paying for their life back in Darwin, including rent and car registration.
“The problem is we both are employed in Australia … and here we are just sitting at home, we can’t get any job and still are paying our expenses [in Australia],” she said.