'They're Inconsolable': Journalist Who Reported On China Unable To Rejoin Family In Vanuatu
Journalist Dan McGarry was refused to fly home to his family in Vanuatu on Saturday after his work permit was cancelled earlier this month.
McGarry and his wife travelled to Brisbane after his permit was revoked but when they tried to return home, he was not allowed to board the plane.
The Vanuatu Department of Immigration had placed a "no-uplift" order on his file, meaning he was unable to fly, according to McGarry.
He was forced to part ways with his wife, a Vanuatu national, who returned to Port Vila to care for their two young children.
McGarry told 10 daily that he's absolutely "heartbroken" and is doing whatever it takes to be reunited with his family.
"It was a really terrible moment. I mean, imagine having to stand at the airport and tell somebody that you love deeply that you're going on the plane alone," McGarry said.
My kids are asking when I'm coming home and I don't know what to tell them.
McGarry said his family were unable to eat last night, plagued with the uncertainty of their loved-one's future.
"All they know is their mum is here but their dad isn't. My daughters missed their evening meal yesterday. Both went to bed early feeling miserable, they're inconsolable," McGarry said.
"I'm just hoping to get back there as soon as I can and give them a great big hug."
Dan McGarry worked for Vanuatu's Daily Post newspaper and had been living in the country for 16 years.
As his family's main provider, McGarry now wonders how he will look after his family and whether he'll be granted the right to work in the country.
"I've been two months without any kind of remuneration from my former employer. It's extremely difficult paying for a growing, young family," McGarry told 10 daily.
We were always playing fairly close to the bone and now it looks like I'll have to jump into my retirement savings just to keep afloat.
McGarry's work permit was cancelled following a series of stories he broke that detailed Chinese interference in the country.
The stories revealed six Chinese nationals - four of whom had Vanuatu citizenship - were detained without trial, stripped of their citizenship and flown to China.
Not long after, McGarry was summoned before the Prime Minister of Vanuatu for his "negative reporting of the country".
The Prime Minister told McGarry that if he didn't like how things operated in Vanuatu, he should "go home".
"I must say, this is my home. I've made my life here. So to be told that's all going to be taken away with the stroke of a pen that's... I just can't express how upsetting that is," he said.
The journalist said the newspaper "doesn't pull any punches" but is facing increased reluctance from the government to accept criticism.
"Our leaders right across the Pacific, they look around and see Donald Trump calling the media an enemy of the people. They see the ASIO raids on journalists in Australia and they see China shooting journalists with rubber bullets and tear gas in the streets of Hong Kong," he said.
"They're seeing democratic norms being assaulted from all sides and they figure 'why should we be any different?' and it's a dangerous trend."
It's not the first time The Daily Post's journalists have been targeted by the government.
The paper's founder Marc Neil-Jones suffered a broken nose and black eye after he was physically assaulted by police officer in 2009.
Another assault occurred in 2011 when Neil-Jones was severely bashed by several government ministers in his office.
"[Marc and I] were very much good buddies in bad times. I knew what I was stepping into. I often made jokes about being the designated punching bag for the paper," McGarry said.
"When it happens to you, when they actually come for you that's a different feeling. But It's not one that I regret, he said.
"It's very important for democracy to have people who are willing to say thing without fear and without favour."
McGarry is a Canadian citizen and is eligible to stay in Australia for up to three months.
He has contacted Vanuatu's immigration department and plans to pursue the matter in the courts if he is unable to get answers from the country.
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