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Last Updated: Friday, 18 November 2005, 11:05 GMT
Wrongly deported Australian home
Wrongfully deported Australian citizen Vivian Alvarez attends a press conference in Sydney, 18 November 2005
Mrs Alvarez is still in a lot of pain
A woman has returned to Australia after being wrongfully deported to the Philippines four years ago.

Vivian Alvarez was mistakenly identified as an illegal immigrant in 2001 after suffering memory loss in a car accident.

She had lived in Australia for 18 years, and was a naturalised citizen.

Her case sparked heavy criticism of Australia's immigration policy after she was discovered in May living destitute in a Philippines hospice.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard has since apologised for her treatment and the government has pledged a compensation package for Mrs Alvarez.

But Mrs Alvarez's lawyer, former Federal Court judge Marcus Einfeld, said his client's return had been delayed until the government had agreed to have that package reviewed by an independent body.

He said Mrs Alvarez, whose extensive injuries from the accident include an inability to walk without excessive pain, would be seeking millions of dollars in compensation.

"You can't take away four years of pain, separation from her family, inadequate treatment, loneliness, lack of recreation, no freedom.

"You can't give it back but you can make up for it as best as money can do it," he said.

He said the 44-year-old woman, who was born in the Philippines, was looking forward to being reunited with her two sons who live in Australia - a 17-year-old who lives with her estranged husband, and a younger boy who is in foster care.

'Catastrophic' treatment

An independent report into Mrs Alvarez's case, published in October, found the Australian Immigration Department's actions had been "catastrophic".

The report, by a former police commissioner, found the mistake was due to systemic failings and a negative culture within the department.

It also said that three senior officials, when they discovered their mistake, did nothing to rectify it.

Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone has said two of the officials are being investigated for breaching their duties, and a third has since resigned and faces no action.

Mr Howard has also apologised to another woman, Cornelia Rau. Ms Rau, whom her family says is mentally ill, was held for 10 months in a detention centre for illegal immigrants after going missing from a psychiatric ward in Sydney last year.

Australia's tough immigration policies have long been criticised by human rights groups.

Earlier this year, in the face of widespread pressure, the government ended its policy of detaining children, along with their families, on suspicion of being illegal immigrants.

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