Monash University medical lecturer Biswajit Banik said he could not believe it when he heard the Immigration Department had overturned its initial rejection of his family's application to stay in Australia because their son lived with autism.
“Honestly, I was pinching myself, I could even feel my heart beat,” he told SBS World News on Friday.
“Yesterday, actually, it was a very bad day, a very long day. I had finished teaching and was heading to the bus stop and the phone started to ring, and I saw a call from my lawyer and they said, ‘it’s really positive news, your visa has been approved’.”
The Baniks pose for a family photo. (Supplied) Source: Supplied
Dr Biswajit Banik, his wife Sarmin Sayeed and their 12-year-old son Arkojeet, have been living in Australia for the past 10 years, however in July 2015, they were told their application to stay in Australia had been denied.
The Department of Immigration and Border Protection refused their visas because their son’s medical condition burdened Australia's health care system, he said.
However, Dr Banik said his family had never accessed any government disability or welfare service.
Dr Banik said he and Sarmin Sayeed, who works as a general practitioner and is studying for her PhD, had covered Arkojeet's schooling and medical costs themselves and had submitted this evidence to the immigration department.
After being refused, they appealed to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, which forwarded their case to Mr Dutton's office in December 2015 for special consideration.
But it wasn't until Thursday that Mr Banik was informed Immigration Assistant Minister Alex Hawke had intervened in his case to overturn the initial decision.
A spokesperson from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection told SBS that Dr Banik and his family had asked Immigration Minister Peter Dutton and Assistant Minister Alex Hawke to use their public interest powers under Section 351 of the Migration Act to intervene in the family’s case.
“Based on the circumstances of the Banik family’s case, the assistant minister for immigration and border protection has granted the family permanent visas to reside in Australia.”
The minister and assistant minister’s public interest powers under Section 351 are intended as a safety net for resolving unforeseen and compelling cases.
They found that the family met a health requirement in the immigration act, which assured taxpayers would not be burdened by their son's condition.
“The assessing minister generally only intervenes in a relatively small number of cases which present unique and exceptional circumstances,” the spokesperson said.
Dr Banik said living in Australia would ensure a good quality of life for his son.
“We want to give support to our son to become an independent person and gain the skills to live a life of pride and dignity,” he said.
The news comes after Health Watch Australia Pty Ltd started in August a , which called for the family to be allowed to stay in Australia. It had attracted more than 37,000 signatures at the time of publication.
Students at Monash and Melbourne universities had also rallied in support of Dr Banik and his family last week.