Hearing-impaired Bhutanese teen faces 'world of isolation' as deportation from Australia looms

A Bhutanese family living in Queanbeyan with their two teenage children have had their permanent residency application rejected because one of their sons lives with disabilities that the government fears could be a financial burden on Australia.

The Bhutanese have reportedly been told to expect to have to leave imminently.

The Bhutanese have reportedly been told to expect to have to leave imminently. Source: Change.org

A Bhutanese family with an 18-year-old hearing impaired son are facing deportation after their application for permanent residency in Australia was denied on medical grounds.

Kinley Wangyel Wangchuk, who lives with learning disabilities and hearing loss, and his family have been in Australia since 2012, when they arrived on student visas.

Kinley and his brother Tenzin are both in Year 11 at a Queanbeyan high school, near Canberra, where Kinley has learned to communicate using Australian sign language (AUSLAN).

But now the family are facing a return to Bhutan, where Kinley's former teacher said he will face "life-long severe social isolation and extreme disadvantage" due to his disability.

Two weeks ago the family had their application for permanent residency knocked back for a final time by the Administration Appeals Tribunal, after first launching their application in 2015.

The family fear a return to Bhutan will mean a lack of services and the inability to communicate for hearing impaired Kinley.
Source: Facebook

Under its public interest criteria, The Migration Regulations 1994 dictates that an applicant must be "free from a disease or condition in relation to which a person who has it would be likely to require health care or community services". 

Kinley, because of his disabilities, was found to not satisfy this criterion - which meant both he and his family's applications were rejected.

In a last-ditch effort, the family has applied to the Minister for Immigration David Coleman, asking him to use his discretion to overturn the tribunal's decision. 

A change.org petition organised by Kinley's former teacher David Randall has since garnered almost 7,000 signatures in support of the family, who are described as "excellent role models as responsible, hardworking and caring people". 

"There was little awareness of how to support him as a young deaf person [in Bhutan] and virtually nothing in terms of technical support and Bhutan being a very traditional society also meant Kinley’s difficulties brought him a degree of social stigma," Mr Randall, who first met Kinley at a primary school in Melbourne, wrote. 

The Wangchuck family moved to Australia in 2012, living in Melbourne before settling in Queanbeyan.
Source: Facebook

"It was only when he arrived in Australia that his hearing loss was accurately diagnosed and hearing aids provided for him. It was also only upon his arrival in Australia that Kinley was exposed to sign language and that his language and communication skills started to develop."

Kinley's mother Jangchu Pelden, who works in childcare, told ABC News that nobody in Bhutan had heard of AUSLAN. 

"We came in search of a better life and if Kinley goes back, it's a world of isolation - there's nothing there for us," she said.

A spokesperson from the Department of Home Affairs told SBS News they do not comment on individual cases, but said: "the health requirement is not condition-specific and the assessment is undertaken individually for each applicant based on their condition and level of severity".

"It is an objective assessment to determine whether the care of the individual during their stay in Australia would likely result in significant costs to the Australian community or prejudice the access of Australian citizens and permanent residents to services in short supply."

But Ms Pelden told ABC News her son had never visited a doctor in Australia other than for an annual hearing test.

"Should they be returned to Bhutan, it would be Australia’s loss," Mr Randall wrote. 

Published 1 April 2019 at 4:16pm, updated 1 April 2019 at 9:45pm
By Maani Truu