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Australian model is allowed to fly to London despite travel ban

An Instagram model was allowed to leave Australia for ‘essential’ work while hundreds of families are unable to visit dying relatives.

Bonita Sorrentino, 20, flew from coronavirus-plagued Melbourne to London on Thursday for modelling work after getting an exemption.

Australian citizens and permanent residents are banned from leaving the country unless they meet one of six strict criteria.

One of the grounds is if the travel is ‘essential for the conduct of critical industries and business’ such as import and export commerce.

Bonita Sorrentino, 20, flew from coronavirus-plagued Melbourne to London on Thursday for modelling work after getting an exemption

Bonita Sorrentino, 20, flew from coronavirus-plagued Melbourne to London on Thursday for modelling work after getting an exemption

Ms Sorrentino was not shy about leaving Melbourne as she documented her flight on social media and posted photos from London on the weekend

Ms Sorrentino was not shy about leaving Melbourne as she documented her flight on social media and posted photos from London on the weekend

Thousands of applications for compassionate grounds have been refused, including visiting dying relatives, attending funerals, and reuniting families.

Ms Sorrentino was not shy about leaving Melbourne as she documented her flight on social media and posted photos from London on the weekend.

A photo showed her wearing a face mask having just landed at a London airport after her 23-hour flight on Thursday.

Just before leaving she teased her 37,000 Instagram followers that she would be on ‘a new adventure soon’ and later changed her location to ‘currently London’.

The young model bragged on a group chat with friends that she couldn’t wait to leave as she was ‘sick of Melbourne’ and its Stage Four lockdown.

Ms Sorrentino’s trip was organised by UK talent agency Above and Beyond, which also brought in other models from the U.S. and elsewhere. 

Ms Sorrentino bragged on a group chat with friends that she couldn't wait to leave as she was 'sick of Melbourne' and its Stage Four lockdown

She posted this photo from her accommodation in London on the weekend

 Ms Sorrentino bragged on a group chat with friends that she couldn’t wait to leave as she was ‘sick of Melbourne’ and its Stage Four lockdown. She then posted the photo on the right from her accommodation in London

Just before leaving she teased her 37,000 Instagram followers that she would be on 'a new adventure soon' and later changed her location to 'currently London'

Just before leaving she teased her 37,000 Instagram followers that she would be on ‘a new adventure soon’ and later changed her location to ‘currently London’

The company was dismissive of angry Australians who asked how she was able to work overseas when they couldn’t even visit interstate family.

‘Explain how our client is breaking restrictions? When she has travelled on a model visa? I appreciate your concern but your points are incorrect,’ it replied.

‘She (sic) a model and she’s working, focus on your family. And next time try not to be a troll… Read the law. It’s valid.’

Border Force said each case was unique and considered on its own merit based on the information provided in the application, and supporting evidence must be provided. 

Above and Beyond and Ms Sorrentino both failed to respond to questions from Daily Mail Australia. 

The ban on leaving the country extends to dual citizens who have spent more time in Australia than elsewhere in the past two years.

Border Force figures reveal that of the 91,950 exemption requests lodged up to July 31, just 22,640 were granted.

Ms Sorrentino's trip was organised by UK talent agency Above and Beyond, which also brought in other models from the U.S. and elsewhere

Ms Sorrentino’s trip was organised by UK talent agency Above and Beyond, which also brought in other models from the U.S. and elsewhere

Above and Beyond insisted Ms Sorrentino was travelling on a valid visa and had an exemption

The company was dismissive of angry Australians who asked how she was able to work overseas when they couldn't even visit interstate family

The company was dismissive of angry Australians who asked how she was able to work overseas when they couldn’t even visit interstate family

ABF Commissioner Michael Outram said that number had increased dramatically since then and the agency was settling 99 per cent of applications within 48 hours.

He said on ABC’s Radio National on Tuesday morning that 47,000 requests to leave had now been approved with the percentage increasing.

‘We’re working tirelessly to attend to these exemption requests, we won’t get it right all the time,’ he said.

Commissioner Outram said compassionate and economic applications were not in competition and requests to attend funerals and so on would be allowed.

‘If you’re asking me to ask my decision makers to compare the merits of somebody in a terrible situation and they need to go to a funeral of a close family member or end of life with somebody who needs to travel on business, we’d never make any decisions,’ he said.

‘We’re doing it for both. We’re not comparing the merits of those two scenarios.’

Commissioner Outram’s words conflicted with numerous stories of desperate Australians being turned down – but gave hope to others applying now.

Astrid Magenau, an immunologist with dual German-Australian citizenship, was denied clearance to fly to Germany to say goodbye to her dying father.

Horst Magenau, 76, died on July 18 and she did not get approval to leave on compassionate grounds to attend his funeral until two weeks later.

‘It makes me feel like I am living in a prison, that’s what I would say, it’s a prison island,’ she said.

Australian woman Jess Doherty took five attempts to be given permission to move to the U.S. where her partner Johnathan lives

Australian woman Jess Doherty took five attempts to be given permission to move to the U.S. where her partner Johnathan lives

Astrid Magenau, an immunologist with dual German-Australian citizenship, was denied clearance to fly to Germany to say goodbye to her dying father

Astrid Magenau, an immunologist with dual German-Australian citizenship, was denied clearance to fly to Germany to say goodbye to her dying father

Families have also been split up, like miner Paul Walker in Perth who was denied clearance to be at the birth of his first child in June.

Mr Walker is a British citizen but an Australian permanent resident, and his girlfriend Anna Smith was stuck in Britain after Australia’s borders closed. 

Australian woman Jess Doherty took five attempts to be given permission to move to the U.S. where her partner Johnathan lives.

She said her first application was rejected in just 10 minutes and the second in two hours.

Commissioner Outram also explained why former PM Tony Abbott was allowed to travel to Britain for his new job as a trade envoy.

‘He was allowed to go because he was going to give evidence at a parliamentary committee in the UK as a former Prime Minister of Australia,’ he said. 

Tom Hanks, on the other hand, was admitted to enter Australia for purely economic reasons, at the request of the Queensland Government.

‘There are different categories that I have been provided to turn my mind to, one of which is economic activity,’ he said.

‘Obviously stimulating our economy is really important and the Queensland government wrote to me and expressed the importance in terms of their economy.’

The travel ban was earlier this month was extended for another three months until December 17, and is expected to continue well into 2021. 

Australians banned from travelling

Australian citizens and permanent residents are banned from leaving the country – one of just a handful of countries with this rule.

The policy is to reduce the number of people arriving in the country and being housed in hotel quarantine, as those leaving could return.

Flights into Australia are also scarce due to the arrivals cap, leaving tens of thousands of Australians stranded overseas indefinitely.

Paul Walker in Perth was denied clearance to fly to Britain where his pregnant girlfriend Anna Smith was, so he could be at the birth of his first child in June

Paul Walker in Perth was denied clearance to fly to Britain where his pregnant girlfriend Anna Smith was, so he could be at the birth of his first child in June

Australians can only leave the country with an exemption based on six strict criteria:

  • Your travel is as part of the response to the COVID-19 outbreak, including the provision of aid
  • Your travel is essential for the conduct of critical industries and business (including export and import industries)
  • You are travelling to receive urgent medical treatment that is not available in Australia
  • You are travelling on urgent and unavoidable personal business
  • You are travelling on compassionate or humanitarian grounds
  • Your travel is in the national interest

Various pieces of evidence can be provided to strengthen an application, some of which give clues to ways around the ban:

  • Proof that you are moving to another country on a long term basis such as leases, job offers and evidence your goods are being transported
  • Letter from an employer showing why the travel is necessary or that the work undertaken by you is critical 

Source: Home Affairs Department

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