For almost three months, Spaniards who emigrated to Australia have been “deliberately neglected” by the Sydney Consulate, according to their testimony. The consequences are not being able to renew the passport, register newborns as Spanish or renew the visa that allows them to reside in Australia.
Expelled from the Spanish consulate in London because her two-year-old daughter used a portable urinal in the waiting room
Since June 25, the Spanish consulate has canceled all face-to-face care due, according to them, to the measures imposed by the authorities to combat COVID-19. Australia closed borders in March 2020 and in June this year, after registering an increase in cases, imposed a confinement order on the city of Sydney.
According to established rules by the Australian authorities, consular services are among those provided by authorized workers.
“They have always been able to open,” says Araceli Domínguez-Adame, spokesperson for the group of affected Spaniards. The Spanish came to contact Alex Greenwich, a deputy who represents Sydney in the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales, to check if the consulate could open, in a correspondence to which elDiario.es has had access. “We understand that current public health measures do not prevent consulates from opening or providing services,” the Greenwich office responded.
“They have violated our rights,” says Araceli, who wonders why an anti-COVID plan was not made to be able to attend in person, since it is “essential to carry out procedures.” The spokeswoman assures that they have evidence that other consulates, such as that of France, located in the same building as the Spanish, have been open during these months.
Faced with the impossibility of being treated, this group of affected Spaniards contacted the Council of Spanish Residents in Sydney, made up of a group of Spanish volunteers who serve as a link between the residents and the Consulate. “They have not acted firmly,” says Araceli, who assures that the Council took a position on behalf of the Consulate.
Not finding a solution, they decided to write directly to the Consulate in a letter signed by 80 Spaniards living in Australia, without success. The answer, to which elDiario.es has had access, was the following: “The classification of ‘essential’ of the consular services to which these authorities refer affects exclusively the personnel who work in this Consulate General and not the eventual users of these services.”
They also contacted the Spanish Embassy in Australia, which did not reply, and finally filed a complaint with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “They answered in a vague way,” explains Araceli, who points out how, before this, they responded with another claim where they include testimonies from those affected and request an investigation.
“The Ministry has washed its hands,” says Araceli. According to her, they should have passed the complaint to the Consulate since the one who answered them was the consul, Javier María Carbajosa Sánchez. “The complaint was for the Ministry to investigate the situation, not for them to wash their hands and pass it on to the Consulate.”
Araceli explains that the consul’s response was to say that they had attended urgent cases, such as the repatriation of bodies or safe conduct. “They have not defined what is urgent and what is not, there is no criterion,” he says. In addition, they have not explained how the safe-conduct works that, supposedly, would allow them to fly to Spain once the borders are opened. “I am afraid that we will arrive in Dubai, where we make a stopover, and I have a safe conduct that I do not know if it works. It does not give me any security,” says the Spanish.
The Consulate had also ensured that so that Spaniards could renew their visa, given the impossibility of a face-to-face appointment in which to renew the passport, they would issue a certificate with which they could carry out the procedures. However, when a Spanish woman tried to renew her visa using this certificate, the Australian immigration office let her know that it was not possible, since they only accepted valid passports.
Foreign Ministry sources have assured that, after the announcement of the de-escalation of the Government of New South Wales, since 20 September it is being attended again in person by appointment. East Thursday They have also announced that the online appointment request system has been re-enabled. Foreign Ministry says that it was complying with the restrictions and has assured that it does not have more information about the situation reported by this group of Spaniards.
For these Spaniards, this has been “the last straw”. “It is a structural problem,” explains Araceli, who says that before the pandemic there were problems with the Consulate for “not meeting deadlines” for the procedures and “unprofessional treatment.”
Araceli tells how she spent “almost a year” to register her newborn son as Spanish. “For them it counts from when you ask for the appointment until you go to the consulate, but first you have to organize a film documentation,” he explains. The Consulate assures her in the responses to her complaints that the procedures are resolved in a matter of “weeks”, but she points out that this only takes into account the time from when they give you the appointment until they attend you, not all the previous procedures and later, which can each take “weeks or months.”
These are not the first complaints about the slowness of the procedures in Spanish embassies or consulates. After Brexit, Spanish residents in the United Kingdom reported months of waiting for the necessary documentation that would allow them to obtain the residence permit necessary to be able to stay in the country legally.