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People with disabilities continue to be stigmatized and discriminated against in Australia — and around the world. People with disabilities are not burdens; they are members of the community that contribute to social diversity and economic growth. Global Citizen believes all people deserve the chance of a better life. You can take action for a world that is equal and just here.

A deaf 18-year-old and his family have had their permanent residency application rejected after the Department of Home Affairs felt the man’s disability would be a financial burden on the Australian taxpayer.

The rejection has resulted in public outcry, and now, Australia’s key advocacy groups for migrants and refugees have weighed in. In a letter to the Minister for Immigration David Coleman, the Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia, and National Ethnic Disability Alliance conveyed fears for the man’s health and well-being should he be deported to his home nation of Bhutan.

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"We are deeply concerned that disability status is cited as the determining factor supporting the decision to deny permanent residency,” the joint letter, provided to SBS, states. “We question the legitimacy of any decision where an applicant’s disability has been assessed against the health requirement of the Migration Act. It is known that the health requirement unfairly discriminates against people with disability."

Kinley Wangyel Wangchuk, his older brother, and his parents have resided in Australia since 2012. The Wangchuk family claim their son only uses Australian Sign Language. Should Kinley be forced to leave, his mother Jangchu fears he could be subjected to a "world of isolation” and silence.

Beyond an annual hearing test, Jangchu revealed her son has never visited a hospital or doctor in Australia.

Earlier this week, Greens Senator Jordon Steele-John told SBS he had tried pleading with Coleman to overturn the rejection.

"I told Coleman this was a case of discrimination based on somebody's disability, and that this decision will condemn a disabled man to a life where he cannot access the support that he needs,” Steel-John revealed. "This is ableism in its purest and vilest form."

Australia’s Migration Regulations Act states that applicants hoping to obtain permanent residency must be free from a disease or condition that could result in a “significant cost to the Australian community or prejudice access for Australian citizens in the areas of health care or community services.”

A government spokesperson told the ABC each applicant is examined at great length.

"An assessment is undertaken individually for each applicant based on their condition and level of severity," the spokesperson stated. “The requirements are not condition-specific.”

Steele-John, who uses a wheelchair due to cerebral palsy, said the health criteria of Australia’s immigration law is “absolutely foul” and desperately needs to be reformed.

"It is disgusting. Even the language about being free of disease, it makes me feel physically sick to see that in Australian law," he told SBS. "This thought process is based on the idea that disabled people are burdens to the Australian economy and Australian society. They'll deport that young lad over my dead, crippled body."

The discourse over the Wangchuk’s resident status comes just weeks after the Australian government announced a 30,000 cut to the annual intake of permanent migrants. 

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the cuts center around managing population growth and are not influenced by anti-immigrant sentiment.

"Managing population growth is a practical challenge for governments,” he stated. “Just because Australians are frustrated about population pressures encroaching on their quality of life does not mean they are anti-migrant or racist."

The Wangchuk family is expected to be deported mid-April.


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