A flight that was delayed by just two and a half hours was all it took for a young Pakenham family to be indefinitely stuck in Pakistan.
Before a global pandemic was announced and travel restrictions were imposed, Urooj Usman and her two babies, aged one and two, left Australia in February to visit her chronically ill father.
When the coronavirus pandemic was declared by the World Health Organisation on 11 March and the Australian Government closed its borders for non-citizens, the mother-of-two immediately booked a flight home.
“I went to Pakistan with my two kids to meet my father after two years as he was diagnosed with a very severe and aggressive cancer and I wanted him to especially meet my daughter at least one time,” Ms Usman said.
After arriving in Dubai two and a half hours later than expected, the family missed their connecting flight to Melbourne.
“I went to the ticket desk at Dubai airport to find an alternate flight but due to the time difference I couldn’t reach Australia before the deadline by any means, so I went back to Pakistan against my will,” she said.
“My kids were tired from all the hassles and travel and I couldn’t risk my visa by attempting to still fly to Australia.
“I was completely shocked and in so much pain.”
Ms Usman is now more than $4000 out of pocket from flights which the airlines refuse to refund.
She and her husband, Danish Ghori, have lived in Pakenham on a skilled regional visa for close to four years.
To make matters worse, Mr Ghori has a severe breathing problem caused by nasal congestion and is due to undergo surgery.
However without the support from his wife, he is unable to schedule the surgery.
While Ms Usman and her children are stranded overseas, Mr Ghori is still renting in Pakenham and working at a telecommunications company over in Warragul.
As he continues to provide for the family financially, Ms Usman says she is starting to run low on supplies.
“I had brought milk from Australia for my daughter and when this milk was finished, I had to buy milk from here but it didn’t suit her and she got diarrhoea,” she explained.
“This is very stressful and overwhelming situation for us as we don’t know when this travel ban will be lifted.
“Every single passing day is bringing more stress and every night is passed in tears.”
Desperate to return home and reunite with her husband and her children’s father in Pakenham, Ms Usman said the first thing her one-year-old daughter says each morning is “baba-baba”, calling for her dad.
“My kids need their father. My son always starts crying while talking to his dad on WhatsApp and asks me when we’ll go back to our home,” she said.
“I have no answer to his question. And me… my soul is empty.
“My husband is the world to me. We are very devastated.”
Ms Usman has attempted to call on Prime Minister Scott Morrison, as well as local MPs for help.
“It’s a huge request to Mr Morrison to give us exemption and allow us to come back to our home,” she said.
“I don’t want my kids to be raised in a split family – it will ruin their mental health and future.
“I’m really desperate to come back to my home Australia. We have put our heart and soul in Australia. Please let us come home.”