A South African family living in Canberra has been told to leave Australia after Immigration Minister Peter Dutton decided not to overturn a visa refusal.
Jacqui Ingram and her husband Clive have been living in Australia since 2011 and both are working for a local disability employment agency, LEAD Contracting.
Their daughter, Caitlin, attends a Canberra high school while their son is in South Africa unable to live with his parents because his visa expired while he was overseas.
If they’re forced to leave, it could affect the lives of up to two hundred disabled people in Canberra, according to Jacqui Ingram.
“That’s what we provide for them, a safety net, and it’s like pulling that rug out from underneath them so it’s really going to be a devastating loss for the Canberra community,” she said.
Her husband, Clive, who runs a bicycle workshop which employs 10 disabled people, said it would leave a hole in his employee’s lives.
“We create employment for people with a disability and add more value to their lives,” he said.
“The consequence of me leaving this place and my visa not being granted is that this place might have to close down.”
Kidney condition costs residency
In 2012, Jacqui Ingram was diagnosed with a chronic kidney condition.
Apart from regular visits to the doctor and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, she said it had not stopped her or her husband from working with disability organisation LEAD Contracting .
“I’m just on blood pressure medication, that’s the only medication that I’m on. I’m perfectly healthy and I don’t have any other related conditions that a lot of kidney disease patients have,” she said.
Eight months after her diagnosis the family made an application for permanent residency in Australia.
It was refused in 2013.
The Ingrams then made a request for ministerial intervention from the Immigration Department.
Jacqui Ingram said she would not forget the Friday in 2014 that was also refused and they were told to leave Australia.
“To have to tell your daughter that, to give her that news, she just burst into tears and she just sobbed,” she said.
“The first thing she asked me was, ‘Mum, what school am I going to go to in South Africa? I don’t have any friends.’ That, for me, is just the hardest thing.”
In a letter to the Ingrams, the Immigration Department said it had a ‘discretionary, non-compellable power’ to overturn its initial visa refusal.
“The Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, the Hon Alex Hawke MP, has personally considered your case and has decided that it would not be in the public interest to intervene,” the letter from October read.
“As you and your family have no further matters before the department, you are expected to depart Australia as soon as practicable.”
It leaves the family searching for more ways to challenge the decision or face leaving the country by December 20.
The visa refusal is based on a hypothetical calculation of how much her kidney condition could cost taxpayers, according to Mrs Ingram.
“They’ve worked it out; I think it came to about $600,000 that a hypothetical person will cost the Australian government,” she said.
“We’ve never been a burden since we arrived here and I don’t think we will be a burden because we do have the funds to support ourselves in the event I do require medical treatment.”
The family has started a and will make a second request for ministerial intervention.
But they face an uphill legal battle against the Immigration Department, according to the Australian Lawyers Alliance.
“It’s a department that’s obstreperous when it comes to giving information, when it comes to compassion to individuals and yet again we see another example of its cruelty,” the alliance’s Greg Barns said.
“You’ve got a person who has lived most of their life in Australia, a family that’s made a substantial contribution to Australia and simply because of the bad luck of the person in having an illness, Australia decides we don’t want them.”