Immigration

Senator demands immediate halt to 'disgraceful' deportation of deaf teenager

Senator Jordon Steele-John and the Wangchuk family. Source: AAP/Facebook

Hours after Scott Morrison gave an emotional speech saying people with disabilities deserve respect, protesters gathered outside Parliament House to voice their concerns over the decision to deport a deaf teenager from Australia.

Greens Senator Jordon Steele-John has slammed an Immigration Department decision to deport a deaf teenager from Australia because of potential costs for the taxpayer, as students prepare to rally in support of the Bhutanese family.

Kinley Wangyel Wangchuk, 18, and his family who have lived and worked in Australia since 2012 are set to be deported within weeks after their application for permanent residency in Australia was rejected on medical grounds.

The family has appealed to the Minister for Immigration David Coleman to intervene, claiming Kinley will face a "world of isolation" due to his disability if forced to return to Bhutan.

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

Senator Steele-John told SBS News he had called Minister for Immigration David Coleman, but Mr Coleman had refused to speak to him.

"I said this was a case of discrimination on the basis of somebody's disability, threatening to tear a family apart and condemn a disabled man to a life where he cannot access the supports that he needs and that unless he wants his legacy to be exactly that outcome, he needed to immediately intervene in this case," he said, referencing a conversation with Mr Coleman's Chief of Staff.

"This is ableism in its purest and vilest form."

Under its public interest criteria, The Migration Regulations 1994 dictates that an applicant for permanent residency 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".

Greens senator Jordon Steele-John has slammed an Immigration Department decision not to grant a Bhutanese family  residency due to their son's disability.
Greens senator Jordon Steele-John has slammed an Immigration Department decision not to grant a Bhutanese family residency due to their son's disability.
AAP

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."

Senator Steele-John said this section of the law needed to come under urgent review.

"It is disgusting, that section of our immigration law is absolutely foul. Even the language about being free of disease, it makes me feel physically sick to see that in an Australian law," he told SBS News.

"This thought process is based on the idea that disabled people are burdens to the Australian economy and Australian society. Not only is that deeply ableist, deeply discriminatory but in the era of the NDIS it is something that is totally out of line with the rest of our social service policy.

"They'll deport that young lad over my dead, crippled body."

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).

The 18-year-old's former teacher said he will face "life-long severe social isolation and extreme disadvantage" in Bhutan, where deafness is misunderstood and people do not use AUSLAN.

Kinley and his family joined the rally outside Parliament House on Friday, where his father Tshering was planning to speak to the crowds.

The organiser of the rally, national disabilities officer at the National Union of Students (NUS) Will Edwards told SBS News that he wanted to put pressure on Mr Coleman to use his discretionary powers. 

"I think it's one of these issues that when most people see it they sort of instinctively know that what's happening is wrong ... and I think the more people that know about this, the more pressure there will be on the minister to help out," he said.

Kinley's mother Jangchu Pelden told SBS News she was completely surprised by the amount of support for her son. 

"This is our home now, we are so settled here and our boys, it will be hard for them to start again. Especially for Kinley, he's got used to this society and Australian way of living. We will have to start all over again," she said.

"It's really hard that they are treating us like this, because we have fulfilled all the criteria ... and they are just treating us differently because my son is deaf.

"We are working hard. It would be nice if the government treated us the same as other people."

A Bhutanese family are facing deportation after their hearing impaired son did not satisfy the medical criteria for permanent residency.
A Bhutanese family are facing deportation after their hearing impaired son did not satisfy the medical criteria for permanent residency.
Change.org

Earlier on Friday morning, Prime Minister Scott Morrison officially announced the royal commission into the abuse of Disabled Australians would go ahead after he allocated more than $500 million to the inquiry in Tuesday night's budget.

During the announcement, Mr Morrison was teary when referring to his brother-in-law, Gary, who has multiple sclerosis.

"As my brother in law Gary also said to me, it is not flash being disabled but the good thing is that that's the condition you live with in Australia and that you're an Australian," he said. 

"That has always meant a lot to me. They deserve our respect. This is so above politics I can't tell you."

Senator Steele-John said this isn't enough.

"On the day that the Prime Minister announced the royal commission, and shed a tear over the experience of his brother-in-law, let us take that emotion that he seems to have recently discovered and apply it to the rest of his goddamn government," he said.

"And step one of that is picking up the phone to David Coleman and saying 'what the hell do you think you're doing? Get off your arse and intervene in this case'.

The Minister of Immigration declined to respond to Senator Steele-John's statements as he is unable to comment on individual cases.

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