UN ups the pressure on Australia over migrant with disabled son
November 5, 2008
SYDNEY: The UN yesterday threw its weight behind a German doctor ordered out of Australia because of the cost to the taxpayer of looking after his 13-year-old disabled son. Bernhard Moeller, who has been on a temporary visa since arriving in 2005 to fill an internationally advertised vacancy at the small hospital in rural Horsham, was last week denied permanent residency because his son Lukas has Downs syndrome, which is likely to result in costs to the Australian community that are significant.
Sydney law professor Ron McCallum, who this week was appointed to the UN Committee for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, described the refusal as outrageous and demanded its immediate reversal. Its outrageous a family is denied immigration because of a disability in their family, McCallum told The Australian newspaper. We signed this convention to give disabled people the same rights as the rest of the community.
If Moellers appeal is unsuccessful, he would have to leave Australia in 2010. He said Lukas was aware of the visa difficulties and that it was best for the family to leave well before the deadline. An appeal could take six months to hear and that was too much uncertainty, he said. Downs syndrome is a congenital chromosomal abnormality that shows up in varying degrees of mental disability. Others who have appealed in similar cases have had permanent residency granted by the immigration minister.
John Brumby, who as premier of the state of Victoria is Moellers employer, has promised Moeller to lobby on his behalf – as has Health Minister Nicola Roxon.
Rex Langthorne, chairman of Special Olympics Australia, is also pushing for a review, arguing that the law must be changed to remove the ability of the government to discriminate against people with disabilities in visa cases. To deny the Moeller family permanent residency due to their son having a disability is discrimination at its worst and reminds us of the deep-seated attitudes that still exist, he said.
The Immigration Department has ruled that the potential cost of care for Lukas would be several hundred thousand dollars over his lifetime. Moeller has disputed the finding, saying the family stood ready to pay extra costs. On average, 1,500 visa applications are turned down because the department feels the health-care costs would be too high.
In a celebrated case four years ago, an Indian family living in Canberra was served notice to leave because of their sons autism. It transpired that the 12-year-old was at the time featured in a government calendar extolling the contribution to society of disabled people. At the end of an appeals process, the immigration minister intervened and awarded permanent residency. DPA