Francesca’s fears as virus strikes home and visa runs out
FRANCESCA Ferrari is watching helplessly as coronavirus is "practically exterminating" her beloved Italy, and now fears deportation, with only days left on her visa and no way home.
The 25-year-old beauty therapist had been on a 12-month working holiday visa and was in the process of booking flights to Rome last week when the Italian borders were closed.
Attempts to get home via Zurich were also scuppered, as the pandemic worsened.
Ms Ferrari's family lives in the north of Italy, where she said the virus had hit hardest, and both her grandparents were in hospital with respiratory issues, fuelling her fears.
"The situation in my country is tragic because of the coronavirus, which is practically exterminating the Italian population," she said.
"I can't go home, but I can't stay here, my flights have cancelled and I'm stuck here."
Her housemate Lauren Hutton had been helping Francesca navigate different departments, assisting with the language barrier.
Ms Hutton said it had been an incredibly stressful time for her friend.
"Her parents said it was like a war zone (back home)," Ms Hutton said.
Ms Ferrari had worked at the Glass House Brewery and on farms in the region for the past year, and had lived with Ms Hutton in Mooloolaba for the past 7-8 months.
"She's been so stressed out about this," Ms Hutton said.
"This time last week it (Rome flights) was okay."
Ms Hutton said advice from the immigration department and the embassy had been that Ms Ferrari should head to New Zealand and get a similar 12-month visa and wait it out, or pay for a student visa to remain in Australia.
Ms Ferrari said she couldn't afford a student visa, and now couldn't make it across the ditch to bide time in NZ.
"I risk getting stuck here illegally not because of my choice, not through my fault," Ms Ferrari said.
"There could be many solutions, one of the simplest could be to extend my visa until the waters have calmed down and I can go home, but unfortunately, I have no say."
She feared deportation, and where she may end up, given the current global travel situation.
A Department of Home Affairs spokesman said non-citizens seeking to extend their stay should review the website and apply for another visa, and any application would be assessed "considering the COVID-19 enhanced border measures and an applicant's individual circumstances".
The spokesman said applications should be made before the current visa expired, and if the current visa had a no further stay condition, a request to waive it could be made.