Finally reunited

Finally reunited

When Salman Khan returned to Pakistan with his wife and two children in December of 2019, he was expecting they would all be back home together by the end of February. Instead, the family ended up separated for 20 months.

Salman and his wife Anum had flown to Pakistan with their daughters Reham, who was three years old at the time and Zimal, who was 10 months old, to lodge paperwork for permanent residency in Australia. 

“So basically we have a visa condition that in order to lodge our permanent residency we have to lodge it from outside Australia,” Salman said.

Though his youngest daughter, Zimal, had been born in Burnie Hospital, she did not have visa approval to return into the country and as a result, Salman decided he would fly home, leaving Anum, Reham and Zimal in Pakistan while the family waited for the paperwork to clear.

The approval took longer than expected and then, when the pandemic began to impact Australia in March 2020, the borders were closed and Salman’s family was stuck on the other side of the world.

Though he was already in Australia Salman’s application was still put on hold due to his family being overseas. This meant that Anum and the kids were not eligible for any of the direct international flights that were available to bring Australian residents and citizens home from overseas.

During this time, Salman had returned to Smithton and was working for the Van Dairy Group throughout the day, and staying up late at night to talk to his wife and kids.

“We would do the video calls every day, basically just waiting for the border to open and for the restrictions to ease,” Salman said.

“It was a six hour difference, so everyday I would stay up to around two o’clock in the morning to talk to her.”

While Salman was living on his own in Circular Head, he would start work at 9am and then come home to take a small nap, before staying up to video call with Anum. Often, he wouldn’t get to bed until three or four in the morning.

“Before they came home I didn’t want to come home when I finished work because it was an empty house,” he said.

“So most days I would go to my friends place and have dinner there and have a chat because, what am I going to do when I come home? No one was waiting for me.”

This would continue for a miserable 20 months before his paperwork was eventually approved.

“I didn’t get my permanent residency approved until June of 2021,” Salman said.

“Even when we got the permanent residency there were no flights from Pakistan to Australia because everything was shut down.”

After receiving the all clear, Salman booked the first available flight home, which wasn’t until August. Unfortunately, the flight was cancelled three days prior to departure.

Eventually Salman was able to apply for tickets for Anum, Reham and Zimal on a direct flight from Pakistan to Darwin where the family would be able to complete a two week quarantine before returning home.

“When I found out they were coming home it was unbelievable, I decorated the whole house especially for the kids, balloons everywhere and I decorated their rooms and when the kids came home they were very happy and excited,” Salman said.

“When my daughter found out she would be seeing me after so long she was very happy in quarantine,” he said.

“She was saying I’m going to see my daddy, I’m going to see my daddy and things like that.”

When the day finally came for Salman’s family to come home Anum and the girls left the quarantine facility at 7am and began their journey from Darwin at 10am. There were no direct flights to Hobart available at that time, so the trio didn’t land on Tasmanian soil until 8pm that evening.

“When they saw me at the airport, she was a bit nervous my younger daughter, she was happy and she hugged me but I think she was exhausted from the travel,” he said.

After a warm welcome, Salman drove the family all the way home to Smithton that evening, arriving back at their apartment in town at 3.30am.

“The next sleep we slept until, I think 2 oclock,” he laughed.

“But when we woke up we were so relaxed. I was so glad to finally have my family back together with me.”