Priest finds deported Australian in Philippines hospice

An Australian priest working in a diocese east of Manila has revealed the location of a wrongly deported woman whom Australian authorities believed was "missing".

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that social workers who visited her yesterday in the Missionaries of Charity institution in the city of Olongapao said she was terrified authorities would arrest her and put her in jail again.

Authorities, and human rights activist Columban Fr Shay Cullen, claimed she was mentally disturbed, but the priest who "found" her - Fr Mike Duffin - believes she is "she's a very quiet woman, very soft spoken and very very sane".

The woman's name is Vivian Solon, but Australian authorities known her by a variety of other names. She has been under the care of the church for the past four years. Fr Duffin first became fully aware of her situation when he saw a story about her on satellite television recently.

Father Cullen, the head of the Preda Foundation, a human rights charity, said she was still "very nervous" but was being well cared for by the sisters.

"At first, she was worried that the authorities were coming after her to put her in jail," Fr Cullen said. "[The social workers] pledged to help her in any way she wants. We know her background, she is mentally disturbed. She has been harassed and is in shock from the trauma. She is a very nervous type," he said.

Fr Shay said he was told Ms Solon had a "certain paranoia", which was "not surprising if you had been harassed like that".

"We will talk to her. If her rights have been violated, we will be getting her story out," he said.

Fr Duffin, who works at St Vincent's Catholic Church in the Olongapo, said he was surprised Australian officials did not know where Ms Solon was, because they had told her she was going to a convent before she was deported.

"I find that very, very hard to believe when they were the ones who told her before she left," he told the ABC.

The Immigration Minister, Amanda Vanstone, said in a statement last night she had been advised by her department that Philippine police, at the request of the Australian ambassador, had spoken with nuns in a convent in the northern Philippines about Ms Solon, but Ms Solon was not there at that time .

"Australian consular officials are being dispatched to the region overnight to ensure that if, in fact, the woman is the Ms Alvarez [Ms Solon] who was removed from Australia, all appropriate consular assistance can be offered to her first thing in the morning," Senator Vanstone said.

"This will obviously include an offer to facilitate her return to Australia, if that is her wish, and appropriate support in Australia."

When she was deported in 2001, Ms Solon was listed as a missing person and was suffering a mental illness. Her son, now nine, has been living in foster care in Queensland since February 2001 when Ms Solon failed to pick him up from day care in Brisbane.

Deported woman found in convent (Sydney Morning Herald 12/5/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Preda Foundation
Diocese of Iba - Diocesan Directory

Govt believes Alvarez found safe (Seven News/Australian Associated Press 11/5/05)
Alverez found: Vanstone's statement (Sydney Morning Herald 11/5/05)
Government knew where Vivian was all the time: Priest (Sydney Morning Herald 11/5/05)
Deported Australian found in Manila (ABC TV Lateline 11/5/05)
Sister of an Australian woman wrongly deported talks (ABC TV Lateline 11/5/05)
Deported mum found in convent (The Courier Mail 12/5/05)
Deported woman found in convent (Sydney Morning Herald 12/5/05)
Wrongly deported Australian woman found (The Age 12/5/05)

12 May 2005