UPDATE, June 13, 2012: The Immigration Minister Chris Bowen has intervened and the Threlfalls will be allowed into Australia! A spokesman for Bowen says that measures will be taken to “facilitate entry for the family.”
London Metropolitan Police sergeant Peter Threlfall has been told that he and his family cannot move to South Australia, where he has been offered a position as a constable, because his 25-year-old step-daughter Sarah is autistic. Threlfall and his wife, Yvonne, have been told that Sarah would be “a burden on healthcare and community services in Australia” even though she currently holds two jobs (as a cleaner and a store assistant) and has been volunteering with the Scout and Guide movement.
Threlfall had been informed that he and his family were being denied visas in December, says News.com.au. He had been trying to reverse the decision but has decided to remain in the UK, after spending six months and about $8,000 going through the recruitment process and passing up opportunities for career advancement in London.
As Threlfall says, “Sarah is not a drain on UK resources and would not have been on Australia.” The family had not been seeking any assistance from Australia for her.
The Immigration Department in Australia contends that Sarah has not met a “legislated health requirement, which was partly to restrict public expenditure on healthcare and community services.” However, had the family already been in Australia they would have been able to appeal, the department suggested, as there are “no legal grounds for a health waiver.”
News.com.au says that Filipino doctor Edwin Lapidario was only able to avoid deportation two months ago after directors at his employer, Hackham Medical Centre, agreed to pay $52,000 towards medical costs for his autistic son. In 2008, a doctor who was not from Australia faced deportation from Victoria because his son had Down Syndrome.
There have been a number a cases of other countries denying visas or residency status to families due to a child being disabled.In Canada, the Maeng family was able to remain in that country and not face deportation to South Korea only after a huge public outcry over the Canadian government saying that one of their sons, who has epilepsy, was a burden on the country’s health system. Other families residing in Canada have faced similar deportation threats due to their children’s disabilities.
Intellectual Disability Association of SA chairman David Holst and Dignity for Disability MP Kelly Vincent are both calling for Australia’s “discriminatory” health policies to be reviewed and revised. As Vincent says,
“It is very concerning and I think insulting to put all people with disabilities in the same basket”.
“We need to stop pretending that people with disabilities and their families don’t pay taxes too.”
We need to stop making the false assumption that people with disabilities cannot contribute to society in many productive and highly beneficial ways. Indeed, Sarah, a hard-working young woman, is an outstanding example of how much an individual with disabilities can contribute.
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