Disdain for disability added to list of crimes against refugees

April 8, 2021
Rallying in Sydney for refugee rights on March 28. Photo: Peter Boyle

I wonder how many of you saw the ABC report the other night about the federal government denying permanent residency to a 6-year-old Australian-born child because he has cerebral palsy?

And I wonder if you too raged at the injustice, at the complete and utter political and moral bankruptcy of this government?

To recap their story: Kayaan’s father, Varun, has lived in Australia for 12 years, his mum, Priyanka, for 8. Varun came to Australia to study European cookery and has since been a chef in a restaurant. Priyanka moved to Australia following their marriage.

Varun and Priyanka have complied with all the requirements of the Department of Home Affairs and they’ve worked and paid taxes throughout. Everything was looking good for permanent residency until Kayaan was born premature at 32 weeks with cerebral palsy.

The Department of Home Affairs’ rejection letter, sent in February, estimated that Kayaan would cost taxpayers $1.23 million over 10 years. This, it considered, was too great a burden on “the community”.

The experience of this young boy, Kayaan, and his family is not unique. It’s reported that there are at least 10–15 families a year who face deportation because of a relative’s disability.

Migration laws are exempt from the Disability Discrimination Act 1992. So, if a person seeking residency has a disability or health condition that is going to cost “too much”, the government can (and most often does) reject their application.

All of this should come as no surprise from a government founded on racism and which has locked up thousands of people seeking asylum — even those considered “genuine” refugees — and effectively thrown away the key.

The Scott Morrison government thwarts its obligation under the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, which asserts that a refugee should not be returned to a country where they face serious threats to their life, or freedom. Yet, it turns arriving boats back out to sea.

And now, we can add to its racist immigration policy its disdain for disability; it doesn’t see the person or their family and the contribution they are making and the responsibility a wealthy country has to provide support. Rather, it sees a dollar figure, calculated using an arbitrary government algorithm.

Kayaan has just started attending a local specialist school in Melbourne and is making progress with his speech and mobility.

The government should have an obligation to support Kayaan to achieve his full potential. Instead, it insists he return to India where it is estimated the family could never afford the care and support he needs.

More than a decade ago, a 2010 Joint Standing Committee reviewed the disability discrimination exemption and recommended a review. It would seem nothing has changed. Yet another report shelved.

Kayaan’s family has now spent more than $40,000 on legal and immigration fees. Kayaan is ineligible to access funding under the National Disability Insurance Scheme and his parents are fearful for their future.

“Is Australia too weak? Just to help a child?” Varun said. “When we came here we came here for equality, we came here for a better future. We were thinking, you know, everyone gets treated equal in a country like this.”

Those of you reading Green Left know the country is plagued by racism and xenophobia and continues to undervalue and discriminate against people with a disability.

So don’t rage at the TV news as I have done. No one hears you in your lounge room.

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