Support continues to grow for Queanbeyan teenager Kinley Wangchuk and his family, with a rally outside Parliament House planned for Friday at noon to protest their deportation from Australia.
The Canberra Times reported this week that, because their son Kinley is deaf, the whole family faces being sent back to Bhutan. The government has decided his care into the future is too much of a drain on society, and his condition does not meet the health requirements for a permanent residency.
A change.org petition calling for Immigration Minister David Coleman to use his discretionary powers to allow Kinley and his family to remain in Australia permanently has now been signed by more than 30,000 people.
Supporters of the family, which has lived in Australia for seven years, say they are model citizens, workers who have paid tax and contributed to society. Kinley's parents, both nurses in Bhutan, work in childcare and aged care in Australia. They fear for the future of Kinley should they be deported.
"If they are forced to return to Bhutan, Kinley will not be able to continue developing his sign language skills. He will be forced back into a life of isolation, and silence," the petition reads.
Friday's rally is being organised by Will Edwards, the national disabilities officer at the National Union of Students.
He said the family's treatment has been outrageous.
"It's fundamentally unfair and cruel," Mr Edwards said.
"It sends a very unfortunate message about how our government views people with disabilities."
A retired Melbourne teacher of the deaf, David Randall, who started the petition, said he was still hopeful the family would be granted permanent residency in Australia.
He said their current visa was due to expire next Thursday, April 11. They had applied for a bridging visa, and had been granted permission to lodge it electronically to speed up the process.
Mr Randall said many disabilities and union groups had joined the campaign. He was thrilled the petition had been signed by so many thousands of people.
"It's been pretty overwhelming," he said.
"And, yes, I am still hopeful because of the weight of public opinion. They're already successful citizens."
The Department of Home Affairs says prospective residents have to meet medical requirements and an objective assessment was undertaken to determine if a condition was likely to result in "significant costs to the Australian community or prejudice the access of Australian citizens and permanent residents to services in short supply".
The Disabled People’s Organisations Australia says people with disabilities, and families who have members with disabilities, consistently have their visa applications denied because they are unable to meet the strict health requirements.
"There is no recognition of the economic, social and cultural contributions of people with disability and their families," the organisation said.
"The only recourse for people with disability, and families who have members with disability is to seek ministerial intervention. This relies on significant lobbying, public pressure and petitioning to achieve, and often does not result in a fair outcome.
"While the health requirement does not, on its face, discriminate against persons with a disability, the provisions indirectly discriminate against people with disability."
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