The Australian immigration department has refused to give visa to Bangladeshi medical doctor Nasrin Haque and her autistic daughter because the latter failed an immigration 'health' check.
Haque's 16-year-old daughter Sumaya Bhuiyan has autism spectrum disorder. The family were rejected permanent residency in 2013. Haque states this was because the health checks found Sumaya had a 'moderate developmental delay' that would result in significant cost to Australian taxpayers.
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Under Australia's 'one fails, all fail' visa rules for family applications, Haque and her 14-year-old son must leave the country along with Sumaya. They are, however, eligible to apply for temporary visas if they wish to stay on after Sumaya leaves.
The children have spent more than half their lives in Australia and have family in the country. Haque's sister, brother and parents are all Australian citizens.
"I still cannot believe how this could be happening. I cry every time I think she has to leave," Haque said while speaking to Sydney Morning Herald.
"My children have been doing well in school, they have a lot of friends. I'm working in two practices, I have a lot of patients. I have been doing everything I can, hoping to have a good result."
In a change.org petition to immigration minister Peter Dutton, Haque pleads with the minister to reconsider her case, saying it would devastate her family. She outlines that her daughter is not a burden on the Australian taxpayers as Haque is capable of providing for her.
“Although she does attend a special school, she has not received any other support from the state during her eight years in Australia. Sumaya is an independent young girl with strong computer skills and manages all activities of daily living on her own. My full-time position as a GP allows me to financially support my family without assistance from the Australian state.”
Even though more than 36,000 people have signed the family's petition, a spokesperson for the department of immigration and border protection said, “The minister cannot be compelled to exercise his powers and he is not required to explain his decisions in any case.”
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There has been an outcry against the government's decision and many have spoken in favour of the family.
Brad Frankum, the president of the New South Wales branch of the Australian Medical Association called the decision“disgraceful”.
“It would take someone of immense callousness to split a family because one of the children is on the autism spectrum,” Professor Frankum said.
The CEO of Autism Awareness Australia, Nicole Rogerson, said the treatment of the family by the government carried a 'disgusting undertone' and the the policy was 'harsh' and 'heartless'.
“Deporting her family because she has a disability...think about what that does to her family, think about what it does to people’s view of disability," she added.
This article originally appeared in The Guardian