/Family fighting deportation after 11yo son deemed burden to taxpayers

Family fighting deportation after 11yo son deemed burden to taxpayers

Updated

April 12, 2019 06:20:51

A family of six is fighting deportation from a small southern Queensland town because their son’s autism means they do not meet Australia’s immigration health requirements.

Key points:

  • Geraldine Custodio says the family will meet all treatment costs for their son Gain
  • The family is challenging their deportation in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal
  • The Department of Home Affairs said migration health requirements were “not condition-specific”

Geraldine and Geofrey Custodio, originally from the Philippines, moved to Bell on the Western Downs with their four young sons in 2014.

Ms Custodio said their application for permanent residency was refused because their 11-year-old son Gain has autism and was deemed a burden on Australia’s healthcare system.

She said Gain, who is non-verbal, would struggle if the family was uprooted.

“Services for special needs children in the Philippines are not as good as you can get here,” she said.

“Even if you have all the resources, unless you really hire somebody private it would be hard for him to get into therapy.

“The openness and the acceptance of kids with special needs is way better here in Australia than in the Philippines.”

Under Australian immigration policy, a person will not be granted a visa if the estimated cost of their care exceeds $40,000.

The family applied for a health waiver but that was rejected.

‘We will cover the costs’

Gain’s ongoing healthcare needs include visits to an occupational therapist, speech therapist, psychologist and paediatrician.

Ms Custodio said the family was committed to covering those costs themselves.

She said they are appealing the decision in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, and the courts would decide their fate.

“We just keep hanging on and hoping … we’ll just have to prove that we deserve it,” Ms Custodio said.

Ms Custodio works as a teacher aide at Bell State School and runs a successful takeaway cafe, while her husband works at one of the region’s piggeries.

“The boys have started building their dreams in Australia … it’s not just Gain we’re thinking about, it’s all four of the boys,” she said.

“We don’t want the boys to blame the special needs of their brother for any unfortunate thing that will happen in our life.”

Local community gets behind family

Joanne Rodney, a teacher at Bell State School, said Geraldine and Geofrey Custodio were active members of the town and volunteered regularly at school and community events.

“They’re our neighbours and our friends, they’re great role models for small business and work ethic and are generally great parents,” she said.

Mrs Rodney said Gain’s confidence and abilities had grown with support from the tight-knit school.

“Since he’s arrived in 2014, you can just see how far he’s come with the stability that this community has given him,” Mrs Rodney said.

“I’ve seen him thrive in this environment, and I’ve seen his brothers become so adept and productive and skilled in the classroom.”

She said forcing the family back to the Philippines was at odds with a government policy to settle migrant workers in regional areas.

“You’ve got these six people who are already part of the fabric of our community and to take them out is going to leave a big tear in this lovely tapestry that they’ve started to create,” she said.

“It’s not so black and white … these are human beings.

“They’re saying, ‘We will ensure that the member of our family that the government sees as a burden … he will not be a burden on you’.”

Geraldine Custodio said the flood of support for her family had given them hope.

“It’s very heart-warming, because at least you know there are people who would like you to stay, even if the Department says, ‘no, you cannot stay’,” she said.

The Department of Home Affairs said it would not comment on individual cases.

A spokesperson said each applicant was individually assessed and the migration health requirements were “not condition-specific”.

“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,” the spokesperson said.

Topics:

immigration,

immigration-policy,

regional,

autism-spectrum-disorder,

bell-4408,

brisbane-4000,

qld,

toowoomba-4350

First posted

April 12, 2019 06:02:23