In July 2003, the Missing Persons Bureau in Queensland contacted DIMIA with an enquiry about Solon, who had been listed as a missing person for two years. Two DIMIA officers in Canberra conducted searches of records, and made a match between Vivian Solon (as she was known to the missing persons authorities) and Vivian Alvarez (as she was known to DIMIA - Alvarez is her middle name). They told their supervisor (referred to in the Comrie Report as officer 'A') on 14 July that an Australian citizen had been deported, but the supervisor did nothing.
On 20 August 2003, an episode of the television program Without A Trace was aired, which contained a Crime Stoppers segment, with information about Solon and her photograph, at the conclusion of the program. One of the officers in Canberra (referred to in the Comrie Report as officer 'E') again told the supervisor, who again did nothing. At the same time, a DIMIA officer in Brisbane who had worked on Solon's case in 2001 also saw the Crime Stoppers segment, and informed her supervisor. That supervisor also did nothing.
Officer 'E' decided to approach the Missing Persons Bureau directly. In September 2003, the Bureau approached the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) for help in searching for Solon. DFAT informed the Bureau that Solon had traveled to the Philippines. Eventually Solon's former husband, Robert Young, was informed where Solon was. Throughout early 2004, Young persisted in questioning the Bureau, until it eventually decided to contact DIMIA. The Bureau was put through to officer 'A' in Canberra (who had already been told twice of Solon's unlawful deportation). Officer 'A' then contacted the Brisbane office, and learned that other people there knew about the error made. However again no action was taken, and the Minister for Immigration at the time, Philip Ruddock, was not informed.
On 4 April 2005, Young contacted the new Minister for Immigration, Senator Amanda Vanstone, directly. Vanstone's office inquired into the case, and discovered what had happened to Solon. Solon's DIMIA case file was not stored with the normal case files, and was instead found separately, in the desk of one of officer 'A's subordinates. Vanstone then ordered the Australian Federal Police (AFP), in cooperation with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in the Philippines, to locate Solon. NBI chief Ricardo Diaz reported on Lateline on 6 May 2005, that their search was unsuccessful after three weeks. Mr Diaz also claimed that the AFP was not forthcoming with information to locate Ms Solon.
While watching the news on ABC Asia Pacific, Catholic priest Father Mike Duffin, an Australian from Saint Vincent's Parish Church, watched reports about the hunt for Vivian Solon and wondered if the reports may have referred to a Vivian that was brought to the Mother Teresa Sisters, Missionaries of Charity, in Olongapo City by Australian representatives four years ago. He recognised her from the photo that was used in the report. Father Duffin was surprised that the Australian Government was unaware of her location. Duffin said:
"They are the ones who told her before she left Australia she was coming to the mission, coming to Mother Teresa Sisters, and then when they brought her, they left her at the Mother Teresa Sisters, Missionaries of Charity."
"So I find it very hard that they don't know where they left her, do they have no records or do people forget things as soon as they do them?"
However, Senator Vanstone disputed Father Duffin's claims of prior knowledge by the Australian Government. She informed the media on 12 May 2005 that immigration records had no mention of Ms Solon being brought to a convent. Instead, her records showed that she was met at the airport by a woman from the Overseas Workers Welfare Association. Ms Vanstone also revealed that the files also showed that there was mention of a discussion with Solon on the possibility of her making contact with some nuns.
Following identification of Vivian Solon at the Mother Teresa Sisters, Missionaries of Charity, the Australian Government sent consular officials to confirm her identity. Senator Vanstone announced that if Ms Solon wished to return to Australia, the Australian Government would provide assistance for her to do so. There was speculation in the media that Solon did not want to return to Australia.
Read more about this topic: Vivian Solon
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