“We enjoy it here so much but at the end of the day, the clock is ticking and we don’t know 100 per cent if things will turn out for us.
“We enjoy it here so much but at the end of the day, the clock is ticking and we don’t know 100 per cent if things will turn out for us." Source: Supplied to Kidspot

Family face deportation because son has Down syndrome

Anita's stomach dropped when her husband called her to ask if she had seen the email in her inbox.

The Lund family, who moved from England to Australia in 2013, had applied for permanent residency in February 2016 - but the email stated the word they never wanted to read: "denied".

The reason given by the government was that their 16-year-old son would be a burden on the system due to having Down syndrome.

"We were informed by letter and given 28 days' notice to pack up and leave Australia, or go to appeal. I felt devastated and upset that Ciaran had been pigeonholed based on his disability. He's just a number, just a figure, it makes me feel really angry inside,"Anita vividly recalls to Kidspot.

Every three minutes someone gains permanent residency in Australia - but every year more than 40,000 are rejected.

Ciaran failed the obligatory health test because the immigration department calculated that his future needs will include access to disability and welfare services, that will exceed the threshold of $49,000 over 10 years, according to SBS documentary, Who Gets To Stay in Australia, that airs on Wednesday July 1.

"My heart sank, I was so hopeful that we would get through as our lawyer had said that our case was very strong," Anita admits to Kidspot.

"I sat with my head in my hands, and waited for Jason to come home from work, there was no way he could be at work after this news. It was a huge set back but we were determined not to give up."Anita and Jason - who also have Ewan, 17, and Sienna, 11 - came over to Sydney on a skilled migrants visa (457) with his company Tribal Group - where he is Head of Cloud Design and Architecture.

Two years later, the couple bought a family home in Collaroy on Sydney's northern beaches.

That same year, Anita started up her own business, Trainers Direct, a corporate training company helping customers gain the most from Microsoft Office 365 and other computer programs, which employs more than 20 staff.

"I'm proud to say that our outstanding reputation has led to expansion in Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. Prior to this, I had a corporate training business in the UK which I set-up in 1996 and have since sold in January this year. I realised when I moved here that there was a niche in the market for tailored rather than classroom training and it has really taken off," Anita explains.

"We have also been involved in voluntary work and fundraising for our local swim school for disabled children. Our eldest son Ewan has also provided community service for the War Vets in his role as Sergeant under Officer Cadet at Pittwater House School.

"It's frustrating and inconceivable that the process has to take so long."

Despite the Lunds' significant contribution to society, they're still awaiting a hearing date to be set after taking their case to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal more than two years ago in February 2018.

"It's terrible, it's a topic of conversation that comes up every single day, it never goes away, it's always there in the background, which makes daily life very stressful. Although we try to push it to the back of our minds it never goes away," Anita says.

"We enjoy it here so much but at the end of the day, the clock is ticking and we don't know 100 per cent if things will turn out for us. It's very distressing for the kids, they've made their lives here - all of their friends are here, it would be impossible for us to leave now."

Anita and Jason feel incredulous that the government has made an assumption about their son purely because he has Down syndrome.

"We understand the requirement for rules, however, the Department hasn't even met Ciaran.

"They simply assume that because he has Down syndrome he will never be able to work. Ciaran is 16 and he's continually developing his skills - so far has demonstrated ability and keenness to work during his work experience at Jigsaw during school holidays, where he was preparing documents for scanning."

Needless to say - the pressure on the family has been, and continues to be, immense.

"We haven't highlighted the situation to Ciaran and we keep communications on the matter to a minimum to avoid distress around both Sienna and Ciaran. Ciaran is aware that something is going on but has no idea of the magnitude of the problem. Our eldest son is in the middle of HSC and the possibility of having to return to the UK for him is distressing."

Which is why the determined family will fight the appeal to the bitter end.

"We'll never give up, we made a choice when we decided to appeal, we knew it would be hard but we're determined and believe that we deserve to stay in Australia. We've come to accept that this is a journey we have to complete - some days are harder than others but there's no point feeling anger - we just have to push on and hope that the law will change for others in a similar situation to us in the future."

Who Gets To Stay in Australia airs on SBS on Wednesday July 1 at 8.30pm.

Response from the Department of Home Affairs spokesperson:

  • The Department does not comment on individual cases.
  • Most visas require applicants, including accompanying family members, to meet the legislated health requirement set out in the Migration Act 1958. 
  • A health assessment is undertaken individually for each applicant based on their condition and level of severity.
  • It is an objective assessment by a Medical Officer of the Commonwealth to determine whether ongoing care for the individual would likely result in significant costs to the Australian community or impact the access of Australian citizens and permanent residents to health care and community services.
  • If an individual case does not meet the legislated health requirement, they are able to seek merits review in the AAT and then request Ministerial Intervention.
  • All cases put before the Minister are considered individually, taking into account compassionate and compelling circumstances.
  • Individuals and families may remain in Australia while their case is being considered.

This originally appeared on Kidspot and has been republished here with permission.