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Crim's visa a shock for girl
DAMIEN STANNARD and PAUL DYER 12 feb 2006


IN LIMBO: Plarm Pongprom, 14, has been seeking a visa for more than four years
Picture: BRIAN CASSEY
IMMIGRATION officials have been blasted for granting residency to an illegal immigrant with drug and violence convictions while a girl rescued from the streets of Thailand still faces deportation.

Plarm Pongprom, 14, has lived with her grandparents in Mareeba in far north Queensland for more than four years while she waits on the Federal Court to decide on her residency request.

Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone has rejected repeated requests to intervene.

A decision this week to grant a visa to Italian Francesco Madafferi, who was once investigated for mafia connections, has outraged Plarm's family and supporters.

"If they can find a way to make an ex-crim a citizen then I'm sure they can do the same for Plarm," One Nation's local State MP Rosa Lee Long said.

"I'm sure Plarm's much more the sort of person we'd want in Australia."

Federal Opposition immigration spokesman Tony Burke said Plarm's case seemed to be unfair.

"I am sick of the double standards that keep appearing in immigration," he said.

The case prompted Plarm to issue a fresh plea to Senator Vanstone.

"Please let me stay," said Plarm, whose grandparents Kenneth and Sunan Ritchie fear she will be forced into prostitution if she returns to Thailand.

Plarm said she tried not to think about what could happen if her appeal for a protection visa fails.

"I try not to talk about it – it makes me too sad," she said.

"It feels like I might have to go back. But I love it here. I have friends and family here and I'm very happy."

Ms Lee Long said Senator Vanstone could solve Plarm's problem with the stroke of a pen.

"It would be a tragedy to send her to an unknown future. She no longer has ties to Thailand and would end up a stranger in her own country."

Senator Vanstone's office and the Department of Immigration declined to comment.


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