The National Ethnic Disability Alliance says despite the recent changes, Australian immigration law remains discriminatory.
05 November 2012
Advocacy groups deride Australian immigration law change for disabled migrants
Advocacy groups in Australia have claimed the changes made to Australian immigration policy in recent weeks intended to make it easier for disabled migrants to move to Australia do not go far off and continue to discriminate against disabled applicants.
Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said last week that Australian immigration policy would be changed to allow more disabled migrants the chance to move to Australia. Under previous policy, many disabled applicants' Australia visa applications were rejected due to the possibility they would become a burden on state medical facilities.
If an applicant's disability or disease threatened to cost the state AU$21,000 (£13,500), the Significant Cost Threshold (SCT) in medical expenses, a visa application could be rejected.
This rule proved highly contentious in many cases with applicants and families claiming they would seek no help from the state in providing medical care.
However, Mr Bowen last week said that any potential costs a disability or disease could incur could be offset by the benefits the migrant would bring to Australia in skills additions or earnings. The announcement was also accompanied by an increase in the SCT to AU$35,000 (£22,500) next July.
The change was met warmly at the time but disability advocacy groups argue the change is not enough.
The National Ethnic Disability Alliance (NEDA) says the system remains discriminatory as the system does not differentiate between conditions.
"The health requirement assessment criteria are discriminatory because the Department of Immigration and Citizenship assesses disability as a 'medical condition' or a 'disease'," said Bee Mohamed, NEDA policy officer.
The main complaint of existing policy was the lack of discretion involved in making decisions: if medical bills had the potential to exceed AU$21,000 an application would be rejected. While the new change goes someway to add discretion as well as increase the threshold, Ms Mohamed says Australian immigration policy should separate diseases from disabilities.
"This practice must change to remove any kind of discrimination against individuals with disabilities from current immigration processes and laws."
The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people lodge applications with the Australian Embassy.