18 September 2012

Family's fight for an Australia visa continues

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One British family's fight for an Australia visa looks set to continue after losing an appeal due to their daughter's autism.

Australia visa

The Scott family have been told by doctors the warm climate and open air of Australia will help Niamh's condition.

The Scott family has been trying to move to Australia for two years now after British doctors told them the warmer climate and outdoors-based lifestyle would help with 12-year-old Niamh's condition.

The Scotts then began the Australia visa application process but hit an immediate roadblock when Australian immigration authorities deemed Niamh's autism to present too much of a risk to Australian public health services.

Niamh's father Adam lodged an appeal to fight the decision but has since lost that too. Autism is a varying condition requiring differing needs and Australian officials have decided that Niamh, who is also deaf, would risk too much of a burden.

Current Australian immigration guidelines calculate the potential cost of treatment in such cases, if the cost of treatment exceeds the AU$35,000 (£22,500) threshold, this can put a visa application in jeopardy.

Mr Scott however, argues that his family have more than enough money to support themselves in Australia and any medical costs incurred for Niamh's treatment would be kept 'in the family'.

Niamh's Oxford based GP recommended Australia as a better environment for the 12-year-old to grow up in and has already spent over a year in Australia on various tourist visas.

"The environment would benefit Niamh's development hugely as there would be much more social interaction for her and more support for her stressed parents," wrote Dr Chloe Procter, who supported the Scott's appeal.

"Refusal of entry to Australia to my mind seems to be discriminatory with regard to Niamh's intellectual disability.

"Her family are hard-working and upstanding citizens and I feel that appeal is fully justified."

Dr Gatt, who also supported the appeal, said Niamh's development in a few short visits had been 'remarkable' and meant that her medication requirements could be reduced.

"[In Australia] there is a lot more space and freedom, whereas at home we live in little boxes," explained Mr Scott.

"Our rooms are small and [Niamh] doesn't like being confined, she gets very frustrated. She's got a lot more freedom over here. My mother-in-law has a pool and she loves swimming."

A similar case earlier this year involved a London policeman and his family struggling to move to Australia due to his 25-year-old stepdaughter's autism.

However, after widespread reports and the support of a Greens Senator, Immigration Minister Chris Bowen stepped in and allowed the Threlfall family to move to Australia.

The Scott family are hoping similar assistance will be available to them; Mr Scott has since set up an online petition written by Niamh in the hope that enough people will give their support to his cause.

Leonie Cotton, casework manager at the Australian Visa Bureau, says more transparency is needed in these cases.

"It's important to have these guidelines in place to ensure that people can't exploit the Australian public health systems but many of these aren't widely or publicly known, meaning that any applicant, or applicant's family member, with a serious medical condition can risk going through the entire process before finding out they are ineligible," said Ms Cotton.

"Therefore it's important to do as much research on the process as possible, and even consult with a qualified professional before beginning the process."

The Australian Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy specialising in helping people lodge applications with the Australian Embassy.

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