- Peter Dutton reportedly overruled advice from the ABF to release a French au pair who had been arrested for breaching her visa conditions.
- The nanny, who was intending to work “voluntarily” in the Barossa Valley, was to be deported after her arrest.
- The family she was staying with contacted their relative AFL boss Gillon McLachlan, who in turn emailed the then-immigration minister’s office saying there had been a “misunderstanding”.
- Despite being warned against allowing her to stay, and that there would be a financial burden to the department, Dutton ruled to release the woman.
- She was granted a three-month visitor visa, with conditions.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton reportedly overruled advice from the Australian Border Force to help a French au pair avoid deportation.
According to the ABC, Dutton approved the release of 27-year-old Alexandra Deuwel despite being told there was detail “which does not support the Minister intervening”.
Dutton’s intervention was revealed in an email leaked by a whistleblower to Labor senator Kimberley Kitching.
Deuwel was arrested by ABF officials on Emirate Airlines at Adelaide Airport in October, 2015, and her visitor visa cancelled, after she said she intended to work “voluntarily” only for Callum and Skye Maclachlan in the Barossa Valley — a breach of her visa conditions.
She said in return for “helping with this family’s children, cooking and riding their horses” she would receive free accommodation for three months.
Callum MacLachlan is the second-cousin of AFL boss Gillon McLachlan, who is believed to have lobbied Dutton to release Deuwel after her arrest.
The AFL boss sent the then-minister’s chief of staff an email from the MacLachlan’s which said there had been “a misunderstanding” and that she intended to work for them while spending time with the family, and that they “consider her to be family”.
“We live in the Barossa Valley on farm and have four kids who will be devastated not to see her,” the letter said.
“A girl of outstanding character and integrity. She also made many friends in Adelaide and will spend time with them.”
Deuwel had also been “previously counselled” in May 2015 about breaching her visa conditions as at that time she was on a tourist visa, and worked for the MacLachlan family as an au pair in 2013 and 2014.
In the emails, Assistant Commissioner of Strategic Border Command Clive Murray even warned “there may be some financial liability to the [department] if the removal does not proceed as the airline has been formally served”.
Despite that, Dutton reportedly used his ministerial discretion to grant Deuwel a three-month visitor visa, with conditions, in November, 2015, and said: “it would be in the public interest” to grant the woman a three-month tourist visa.
He also said that his intervention was a “discretionary and humanitarian act” for someone with “ongoing needs” and that the decision was in the “interests of Australia as a humane and generous society”.
He is believed to have done this despite reportedly receiving advice from senior ABF executives to the contrary.
“The Minister has also asked that, if he intervenes to grant a visa, that the client be very strongly counselled that they cannot work, even do volunteer or in-kind work, and that their visa would be liable for cancellation should they do so,” a representative wrote in response.
Meanwhile, Senator Kitching says the emails show the intervention was “anything but routine or all above board” and questioned why Dutton acted against Border Force advice.
“Why did he expose the Australian taxpayer to this financial risk? Why did he put the integrity of his department and our borders at risk at the behest of a Liberal party donor?” she told the ABC.
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