Malaysian couple who slipped into New South Wales fined for breaching Covid-19 rules

Mohammad Hashim and wife Fadline Rasani were fined A$1,200 each for breaching Covid-19 regulations after they illegally crossed from Victoria to New South Wales, Australia. (AFP pic)

PETALING JAYA: A Malaysian couple who illegally crossed from Australia’s Victoria state into New South Wales (NSW) to find work has been fined A$1,200 (about RM3,600) each for failing to comply with Covid-19 regulations.

ABC.net.au reported that Mohammad Hashim, 28, and his wife, Fadline Rasani, 26, were arrested in late August after police received a tip-off that Fadline had recently given birth at Coffs Harbour hospital, about 520km from Sydney.

Nursing their newborn in court, it said, they pleaded guilty to the charge.

The report quoted magistrate Ian Rodgers as saying the Malaysians’ case highlighted the adversity they faced during the pandemic.

However, he said although he recognised their “dire financial situation”, a strong message needed to be sent about Covid-19 regulation compliance.

Earlier, the court was told that Hashim and Fadline, who arrived in Australia in January on temporary working visas, were evicted from their rental home and lost their jobs in regional Victoria.

In desperation, they made their way to Coffs Harbour in a last-ditch attempt to get work picking blueberries.

According to ABC.net.au, they have been sending money back to Malaysia to provide support for their two children, aged eight and two, who are being cared for by relatives.

The report said that during the court proceedings, prosecutor Sergeant Heidi Warren argued that their offence was more serious than the on-the-spot A$1,000 fines dealt by NSW for Covid-19 breaches.

The maximum penalty for their charge of failing to comply with Covid-19 directions is six months’ jail or an A$11,000 fine.

Warren told the court that Hashim and Fadline had lied on their border pass application about securing work in NSW. She said there had been a “degree of planning” to unlawfully journey to Coffs Harbour after their plans to work on a farm at Tooleybuc in the Riverina in NSW did not materialise.

She said the couple’s actions strained resources at the Coffs Harbour hospital because Fadline had to be isolated due to her Covid-19 risk.

The report said lawyers for Hashim and Fadline told the court they could not afford a big fine because Hashim’s income was “sporadic”, earning about A$340 a week picking blueberries.

They also said the Malaysians, who were supported in court by a postnatal worker, needed specialist care for their newborn who required surgery for a birth complication.

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