Deported woman: I want to go home Print E-mail
Written by Oliver Teves, Connie Levett   

By Oliver Teves, Connie Levett
May 13, 2005 The Age

Vivian Alvarez Solon, right, is reunited with her half sister Cecile Solon in the Philippines yesterday.

At first she didn't recognise her sister, but finally the Australian woman wrongfully deported to the Philippines four years ago began to realise her lost years were over.

"Are you going to look after me, really?" Vivian Alvarez Solon, 42, asked as she was reunited yesterday with her half-sister Cecile Solon at a hospice in the Philippines city of Olongapo.

"Have you got room for me?"

Ms Solon, who had not seen her sister for 16 years, assured her: "Yes, I am stronger than you right now, as you can see."

The reunion capped off an extraordinary sequence of events that began with Ms Alvarez Solon's wrongful deportation from Australia in 2001, several months after she was injured in a road accident.

Australian authorities eventually realised their mistake, but said they could not find Ms Alvarez Solon, the mother of two sons left behind in Australia. It was only after last weekend, when Philippines-based Australian priest Mike Duffin saw her photo on television in the Philippines, that Canberra was alerted.

Yesterday, as plans were discussed for Ms Alvarez Solon to return home within weeks, her plight was the subject of a growing political storm in Australia, with Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone forced to defend the Government's handling of the case amid calls for a royal commission and her sacking.

Senator Vanstone declined to apologise publicly to Ms Alvarez Solon, but described what happened as "a very, very, very regrettable situation". She said the Government stood ready to give her housing and settlement help if she wanted to return to Australia.

Australian diplomats yesterday travelled with Cecile Solon to the Mother Teresa Missionaries of Charity hospice in Olongapo, about four hours' drive from Manila, where Ms Alvarez Solon has been living in a ward with elderly people.

Australian consul-general Frank Evatt said after meeting privately with Ms Alvarez Solon: "We want to... make sure that she's OK and to do what we can to make her future better."

He denied Australia knew all along where Ms Alvarez Solon was. "I can assure you that that's not the case. We've spent an enormous amount of effort on Vivian. There's no way that I've seen any record at all that we had any knowledge that she was here."

Ms Alvarez Solon, who lived in Australia for up to 18 years before her deportation, said she wanted to see the rest of her family. "But I can't remember them because of my injuries."

Father Duffin said Ms Alvarez Solon's car accident had "affected her a lot". She uses a wheelchair, but can walk with the aid of a crutch, still suffers headaches and has limited use of her fingers and one arm. "She looks 42, but her body is the body of an older lady," the priest said.

He said he had seen no signs Ms Alvarez Solon was mentally ill - as was the case with Cornelia Rau, the woman at the centre of the other recent Australian Immigration Department bungle that resulted in her wrongful detention.

Father Duffin said Ms Alvarez Solon had been "very lucid" while at the hospice. "Vivian wants to go back to Australia, she is very happy. Her body is not good but her mind is all right."

And she remembered her two children, he said. "She said 'can I see my children?', and then she said 'how long can my children stay with me?'."

But Father Duffin remained puzzled by Ms Alvarez Solon's treatment and her "missing" years.

Father Duffin said Ms Alvarez Solon's troubles may have begun in hospital after her road crash in northern NSW in 2001, when she did not have her passport. "Apparently in the hospital they really didn't believe she was an Australian citizen so they must have reported her to the authorities," he said.

Cecile Solon told The Age how, after not initially being recognised by her sister, she jogged her memory. "I used a keyword, a password - Day Day - my nickname.

"It means little sister in our Cebuan dialect. Then she started to recognise me and remember what had happened in the past. She asked about my son but she can't remember her other brothers and sisters.

"She forgets what happened a long time ago but she remembers (being deported)," Ms Solon said. "She remembers an Australian man accompanying her to the airport."

Asked about how her sister was responding to the sudden attention, Ms Solon said: "She looks happy, with me, with the sisters and with the press."

A nun at the hospice told The Age that when the Immigration Department deported Ms Alvarez Solon, she was so ill she could not even feed herself. She said there had been a slight improvement since then and Ms Alvarez Solon could now feed herself and move around with a walking stick.

The nun, who asked not to be named, said Ms Alvarez Solon returned to her normal routine yesterday after the visitors left. By mid-afternoon she was leading prayer sessions, as she usually did. "She is very religious," the nun said.

The nun said she could not confirm that Ms Alvarez Solon had even been outside the convent in four years. "She can't go out by herself," she said. "She walks very slowly and after a while, she can fall over any time."

She said Ms Alvarez Solon was brought to the convent by the Overseas Women Association "because no one would take her".

Ms Alvarez Solon had told the nuns she could not remember much about the car accident. She suffered constant pain, tired easily and "she is very forgetful and sometimes repeats herself".

Yolanda Solon, Ms Alvarez Solon's sister-in-law, said from Brisbane she and her husband Henry were "overwhelmed" that his half sister had been found alive.

She confirmed that Ms Alvarez Solon had always been religious, attending church every week.

Her marriage had broken up in the mid-1990s, but her sister-in law was always "cheerful, made jokes and laughed a lot".


Jarvis Walker     Arlec

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Featured Articles

The 'Forgotten People'

by Anna Malbon from the Progress Press October 22, 1996

WHEN nine-year-old "Tom" was asked to draw a picture of himself with his mother be drew her trying to strangle him.

Tom entered the world of adults too early. If he was ever immune to the complications and pain of life that adults try to shelter from children, he says he can't remember.

Bulletin Board

I had to struggle extra hard

Her doctors did not bother to enquire about my father and I.

They only listened to her stories ”

“ I grew up thinking - Nobody wanted to help. Nobody wanted to know.”

Hi, I had a mentally ill mother. She passed away last year. I literally grew up hanging around mental hospitals because my Mom's condition was a cycle that always ends in a mental hospital. When I was younger, there was a long period when I cried my eyes out every time I was separated from my mentally ill mother because she had to stay in a mental hospital. After I grew older, my Mom's mental illness became impossible for me to bear.

Literally, my Mom's mental illness ruined my life. I think. I had to struggle extra hard for everything because of my big handicap at home. There was no support at all from anyone other than my father. Nobody else wanted to know about it. My mother's own cousin even said to my father not to bring my Mom to their place. I grew up thinking - Nobody wanted to help. Nobody wanted to know. My mother's own sister has been complaining since 2000 and her last complain was on 5 July 2014. This particular aunt keeps complaining about the same thing. That she had to take my Mom for her weekly injections and complained that my father and I was not around to do it. Then, she goes on to say that she saw my Mom beat me up with a cane. When she said that, I asked my Aunt, you saw my Mom beat me up with a cane? She said yes and than, she walked away.

I feel very sore with this aunt. Number one, the period she was complaining about was when I was still schooling and my father's and my mental health had deteriorated so badly that we had to leave the state for our own sanity. Before joining my father, I had to live alone with my Mom and my baby sister for almost a year. My aunt who lived a few minutes drive away did nothing when my Mom beat me up every day for months until my father managed to cut the red tape to remove me. My body was full of bruises and I was terrified to go home after school. Nobody helped. Not the neighbours who can hear all my mom's shouting at me, nor my aunt, nor my grandparents, nor my school's teachers. Someone should had intervened for a 12+ little girl. No adult helped. My father was trying his best to get me away to stay with him. Nobody helped him.

On XXXXXXXXXXXX, my Mom's sister let slip she saw my Mom beat me with a cane. And yet she did nothing! My aunt even had the cheek to say that my Mom beat me up because I said I wanted to go live with my father. The way my aunt said it was like the beatings were wholly my fault. What is wrong with the picture? You have a 12+ girl being beaten up daily, you are an aunt who knows something is going on and did nothing. Yet for years later you complain about having to take your own blood sister for her injections. And, I do not think she did it for longer than my own experiences. Probably only a few times because my father and I had to travel frequently to see to my mother. Due to the cyclic nature of her illness.

I have been going with my father when he took my mother for her weekly injections as a little girl, knee high, ever since I can remember. My own aunt is so calculative. There was a nurse that visits my Mom to give her her injections. But, the problem is my Mom will not let the nurse into her house that is why the intervention is needed. I have lost count on the number of times I had to go with my Mom for her injections as a little girl.

Her doctors did not bother to enquire about my father and I. They only listened to her stories and full stop. I think my Mom's doctors are the most heartless people I have ever met in my life. Until today, I do not like anyone who officially practices psychology because those doctors etc... contributed to my life being ruined. That is how I feel. I have been scolded by my Mom's medical team and they even dumped my Mom on me after I just turn 18 and there was no other adult around. And, they knew the situation. I was terrified because my Mom was a very violent. My Mom has pitched me, beaten me up, she has biten me with her teeth, she has smashed my head against the table and threatened to beat me with a piece of hard wood. I experienced all these as a little girl at the tender age of 12+ I had to learn karate to protect myself from her violent ways. And, when my Mom was home, I would lock my room's door and place a chair against it. I was that terrified of her.

All our belongings can go missing because my Mom is good at that sort of thing. You never know what is what with my Mom. It is like having a criminal live under the same roof as you.

My aunt kept repeating to me that on my mother's death anniversary I will have go visit her cemetery. I live in a different state from where my mother's cemetery is located. And, my aunt knows that very well. However she repeated her question to me until I said yes. I hate being forced to do something against my will because I have been forced to do things against my will my whole life.

My life is in ruins because of my mother's mental illness and people like my aunt is perpetuating the troubles for me after my mother's death. When I was 12+, my mother's mother said to me that it is my father's job to take care of my mother. In other words, my father's job and mine. And, they never lifted a finger to help. Just helping a little, my aunt has been complaining about the same thing for more than a decade. Unbelievable. Shameful.

Even though my father and I lived in a different state from my mother, we had to travel up and down every weekend because that is demanded of my mother. Sometimes, we had to travel after school and upon our arrival, she won't let us in and we had to travel all the way back. And, my father will not let me sleep at home as it is a school day, I had to go to school. My education was very important to my father. My mother could not be bothered if I succeeded or not.

I have seen more than any of my Mom's relatives have seen with regards her mental illness but people whom I just met behave like I have no idea about my Mom like they are the authority on her behaviour and her illness. Goodness gracious.

Despite this huge handicap in my life I persevered with my studies. My Mom did not give me any moral or emotional support at all. In fact her mental illness cycle will peak just or during my important exams. In other words, I had to deal with my exams and on top of them a mentally ill mother. By my final year in university, I could not take the pressure of exams and a mentally ill mother's break downs anymore.

When I was in my teenage years and early adult years, I was suicidal. I had to call Befrienders a lot. Thank God for Befrienders.

Before XXXXXXXXXXdate, I do not wish my experience to be experienced by anyone else because it is torture. However, after feeling how hard hearted my aunt is. A so called holy person, a church goer, rich person who has successful kids and grand kids. And, she can talk like it is my fault that my Mom beat me up and she (my aunt) had to take her (her own sister) for her injections when I was a kid. I really wish that my aunt must reincarnate as my father (a few lifes) so that she can eat her own words. If my aunt reincarnates and is put in my father's shoes, she would really deserve it. Hope she learns compassion through it all.

Why can't the world give children of the mentally ill a break? I am so fed up with all this troubles that stem from my mother's sister's attitude towards my father and I. After all shel lives a great lives. Rich live. What is wrong with these people? I really cannot stand them. This is my story.

After I wrote the above - I am more myself now, and I totally forgive my aunt and everybody who did nothing to help my father and I. And, everybody else who were heartless towards my father and I. However, I still think that by living a few life times as my father (my aunt) - would do her some good. But, knowing her character, she might become a psychopath and pose a threat to humanity. My father is a very, very kind soul. My aunt is a hard hearted, prejudiced, narrow minded, one tracked mind person.

How I cope? Trying my best to keep out of their way, and hang out with positive people. There are plenty of great people out there. Nnaami is included :)


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