On the brink of deportation
A FRENCH couple on the brink of deportation have been handed a lifeline after they were granted a visa extension of two more weeks.
The Tweed Daily News reported last week that Damien Pigot and Sandy Mendy, who have owned popular 3 Sea cafe at Tweed Heads South since 2012, were told by immigration they had until October 1 before they must pack up their lives and head back to France.
Mr Pigot, who has lived and worked legally in Australia for 15 years, has been advised he does not qualify for a new visa or have the ability to become a permanent resident of the country.
He has since reached out to the Department of Home Affairs and the Immigration Department for ministerial intervention but has been told he did not qualify.
Mr Pigot said he was now resigned to the fact he would likely have to leave the country he loved.
"In the Australian National Anthem it says 'from those who come across the sea we've boundless plains to share', but obviously immigration doesn't believe in that value,” he said.
"In Australia you always go for the underdog, you always give people a fair go, but that doesn't seem to be happening here.
"We're still waiting on something official but the time is getting very short.
"If we don't get an answer in the next few days we'll have to sell our goods and organise our departure.
"As soon as we start selling the gear we won't be able to come back.”
Mr Pigot said he was overwhelmed by the amount of support he had not only received from locals, but from supporters in Perth, Melbourne and even Tasmania.
"We have been busy every lunchtime since your story ran, we've been struggling to keep up,” he said.
"We're still here so we still hope, but sometimes I feel a bit anxious.”
He said a new petition had been set up to help them stay in Australia, which is available on the 3 Sea Facebook page.
He said the couple would spend the next two weeks selling equipment from their business to fund their plane tickets and move their belongings back to France, while also enjoying what time they had left.
"The last five years we've been uncertain about our future due to this visa issue and just want to take our lives back whether it's in Australia or not,” Mr Pigot said.
"One thing we want to go to is Uluru, that's the one thing we haven't done.
"I've never been to the Red Centre, so I hope we'll have a bit of time to do a bit of a drive about and have time to say goodbye to everyone.”
Mr Pigot said the couple would be throwing a party on Saturday at their French restaurant regardless of their visa outcome.
"It could be our last day open and it seems to be the last day but there's nothing official from the minister yet,” he said.
"The Mayor Katie Milne has even tried to help but she hasn't heard anything either.
"You never know, as long as we're here there's a chance, we're not in a plane yet so something could happen.”