An Australian man engaged to a Burmese woman has not seen his fiance for two years because of the closed international border and fears that he may never see her again with no end in sight to the closure (pictured, Jake Denton with his partner)
An Australian man engaged to a Burmese woman has not seen his fiancée for close to two years because of the closed international border – and he fears he may never see her again.
Jake Denton, 25, has been forced to rely on FaceTime and Line, an instant-messaging app, to communicate with his 23-year-old partner* who is living in Myanmar.
The last time he saw her face-to-face was when he visited and stayed with her family in 2019.
Mr Denton had to return to his hometown at Gladstone, on the Queensland coast, but not before becoming engaged to the love of his life.
He immediately began the long and arduous process of applying for a Prospective Marriage visa through the Department of Home Affairs.
The matter became even more pressing after Myanmar was thrown into civil instability following a military coup in February – with street executions, kidnappings, and rolling blackouts now a part of everyday life for his partner.
‘In her neighbourhood, people are kidnapped and bashed,’ Mr Denton told Daily Mail Australia.
‘Bombs go off across the road. If she’s in the wrong place at the wrong time she will die.’
Mr Denton planned to bring his fiancée to his hometown so the pair could buy a house together, settle down and begin a family in a safe and stable country.
The last time Mr Denton saw her face-to-face was when he visited and stayed with her family in 2019
The matter became even more pressing after Myanmar was thrown into civil instability following a military coup in February – with street executions, kidnappings, and rolling blackouts now a part of every day life for his partner (pictured, police charge at protestors in Myanmar in February, 2021)
The Covid-19 pandemic then hit Australia and Mr Denton finished his application in mid-to-late 2020.
By this time the federal government had already closed Australia’s international border to all overseas travellers.
Only citizens, permanent residents and some visa holders have been allowed to enter under some of the strictest Covid-19 border rules in the world since March 2020.
The federal government had hoped to reopen the borders in October 2020 – when it planned to have vaccinated the entire country.
But a bungled start to the rollout forced the government to push back the reopening of the border to mid-2022 – but even that is based on the assumption most Australians will be fully vaccinated by then.
Mr Denton said he has sunk $12,000 into the application for the marriage visa and jumped through all the legal hoops and collected the necessary documents to finally get it approved.
However, his joy was short-lived as he claims he has been informed by the Australian Border Force that the marriage visa is not enough to provide a travel exemption for his fiancée.
This comes despite the fact that in order to obtain the marriage visa Mr Denton had to prove to immigration authorities that he was determined to marry his fiancée and set aside a date to be married.
Mr Denton said the pair settled on a date in October, but he isn’t sure he will now make the deadline.
‘We just want to start our lives together,’ he said. ‘She’s studying online in basic IT and hopes to one day work in computer animation. It’s her dream job.’
Jake Denton, 25, has been forced to rely on FaceTime and Line, an instant-messaging app, to communicate with his 23-year-old partner* who is living in Myanmar
Mr Denton said the pair settled on a date in October, but he isn’t sure he will now make the deadline
Living in the centre of Myanmar, his partner is too terrified to leave her home on most days with public shootings an everyday reality.
Mr Denton said he has spoken on Facetime to his fiancée and their conversation has suddenly been cut short after hearing loud bangs in the background on several occasions.
‘It’s terrible having to do this relationship long distance,’ he said. ‘I don’t know what’s happening over there: we can’t do anything at all. We can’t console each other, or just be there for one another.’
His partner often has to visit a hospital or school to use the internet – as public facilities are one of the few places in the country that has fiber cable and continuous access to electricity.
Sometimes Mr Denton goes days without speaking to his partner and he can’t help but fear for the worst.
‘At the start of the military coup there were three or four days where I didn’t hear anything from her,’ he said.
Mr Denton met his Burmese partner while on missionary work in the Phillipines in 2017
Mr Denton then flew over to Myanmar to visit his partner where he was finally given his father-in-law’s blessing to marry in 2019
Mr Denton admitted the unending long distance relationship had taken a toll on his mental health.
‘I’ve started taking therapy, I talk to my mum, my mates,’ he said.
‘It’s hard to cope with everything that is happening. We do one thing and there’s another thing that keeps coming.’
Mr Denton met his partner while on missionary work in the Philippines in 2017.
The pair crossed paths at the training seminar where they were both taught how to speak Filipino.
‘I had a rough time trying to learn it, but she picked it up much quicker than me,’ Mr Denton said.
The pair then headed to different parts of the country to finish their volunteer work but stayed in touch.
Mr Denton said he is at his wit’s end on what to do but he will take it one day at a time as he remains determined to reunite with his partner
Mr Denton then flew over to Myanmar to visit his partner where he was finally given his father-in-law’s blessing to marry in 2019.
‘I couldn’t really speak Burmese at all, so I relied on my partner to translate everything,’ he said.
‘She took me to lots of different tourist attractions, we spent Christmas together.’
Mr Denton said he is at his wit’s end on what to do but he will take it one day at a time.
An Australian Border Force spokesperson said the marriage visa was not enough to provide an exemption for travellers.
‘Unless there are compelling and compassionate reasons to travel to Australia, holders of Prospective Marriage visas are not exempt from travel restrictions, as an intention to marry is not sufficient evidence to demonstrate a temporary visa holder is an immediate family member of an Australian citizen or permanent resident,’ they said.
*Name of partner has been withheld over fears of political repercussions in her home country