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    PM - Immigration turns away the family of disabled boy

    [This is the print version of story]

    PM - Friday, 3 December , 2004 06:15:00
    Reporter: Nick Grimm
    MARK COLVIN: The Immigration Minister, Amanda Vanstone, who this morning was saying she could not comment on individual cases, today did comment on one.

    She told reporters that a migrant support worker, not the Government, was to blame for the case of the family of a disabled boy whose temporary visas have expired.

    The case centres on a 12-year-old autistic boy. He features today in a Federal Government calendar celebrating the International Day of People with Disabilities.

    Despite being, literally, a poster boy for one arm of government, the child has received a colder embrace from another arm of the government – the Department of Immigration.

    It's turned down an application from him and his parents for permanent residency, on the grounds that he has a disability.

    Making things tougher still for the family, the parents have been forced to give up any paid employment in this country, while they await an appeal which could still take months.

    Nick Grimm has our report.

    JUDE MORRIS: His name is Rophin, he is 12-and-a-half years old, he was 22 months when he came into this country and has spent almost 11 years here.

    NICK GRIMM: Jude Morris the father of 12-year-old Rophin Morris – the Federal Government's calendar poster boy who's been refused permanent residence in Australia because he's autistic.

    JUDE MORRIS: He goes to the local Turner Primary School, and he… what he loves doing is playing on the computer. He has very few words he can speak, so we have developed a communication system by using pictures. He's quite social, he loves to, you know, be with kids. He has a very good spirit, he loves cycling, swimming, those sort of things he loves doing.

    NICK GRIMM: When the ABC first discovered that 12-year-old Rophin Morris faced deportation, requests for an interview with Immigration Minister, Senator Amanda Vanstone, were refused on the basis that she could not comment on individual immigration cases.

    AMANDA VANSTONE: Well, look, there are lots of people in the world we'd like to have in Australia, but I'll consider this request when the file actually does come to me, I'll give it proper consideration. I'm not going to discuss it through the media.

    NICK GRIMM: That said, however, Senator Vanstone did feel at liberty today to discuss the case and lay blame for the family's plight at the feet of their immigration agent, the prominent refugee advocate Marion Le.

    MARION LE: Well, can I just say no one's attempting to deport this family. Their visas have run out, their migration agent didn't apply for a bridging visa to cover them while they put in further appeals, including a ministerial intervention. They do have a ministerial intervention on foot, and there's no question of them being deported until that matter's dealt with. There is no question of that. The migration officials, immigration officials visited the family's home to save them coming into immigration and to give each of the family members a bridging visa, which in my view should've been applied for at the appropriate time.

    NICK GRIMM: According to the Immigration Department, it's premature to say the family is about to be deported, because they have not yet been formally rejected for residency, even though they've been told their application has been unsuccessful because of Rophin's disability.

    The family have appealed for the Immigration Minister, Senator Amanda Vanstone, to intervene on their behalf.

    But while the Department insists their case is still being considered, according to Immigration Department rules, they're now ineligible for a temporary visa, and under their new "bridging visa" they are barred from paid employment.

    AMANDA VANSTONE: It is true that people on this particular bridging visa don't have work rights. I mean, the situation is this family have been here on one visa or another. I don't have the details of that at this point, because the request hasn't yet come to me.

    NICK GRIMM: That's forced Daisy Morris to quit her job and now the family has to rely on charity to survive, while they await the Minister's review.

    That, says Marion Le, is a cruel catch-22 for a family which has done nothing wrong.

    MARION LE: You know, it's a sad state of affairs that on the two days after they were advised by the Department of Immigration that they no longer have work rights, that they have to go onto a bridging visa that doesn't allow them to work while they wait for the Minister's response to an application they lodged in October. Two days later they are, you know, part of a calendar which was filmed some time ago, shot some time ago, where they go along to the ceremony, really legitimately proud to be part of that and to be promoting the work of the family services, but at the same time they are feeling totally sad that they are almost being outcasts while they wait for, again, a legitimate part of the process.

    NICK GRIMM: The Minister has confirmed today that she hasn't even seen their appeal as yet, that it's still with the Department, and yet they have been put onto this visa which has taken away their means of gaining a livelihood.

    MARION LE: Exactly. And that was part… that's just part of the problem with this system, is that they make a legitimate application to the Minister, and then – as I say – all their work rights go. But they're told by the Department, and other people are in the same situation, that it can take the Minister three months or a year even, and sometimes in some cases longer. Now, in the meantime how do the family support themselves? I've seen families, and I have on my books, families that have totally disintegrated under the pressure.

    MARK COLVIN: Immigration agent Marion Le, ending that report by Nick Grimm.

    © 2004 Australian Broadcasting Corporation
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