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End Absurdity of Excluding People with Disability from Australia

  • Published: 2010-06-19 : Author: National Ethnic Disability Alliance (NEDA)
  • Synopsis: Reviewing the treatment of disability as part of the migration regulations.

Australia's practice of subjecting potential migrants and refugees to Australia to a health assessment in order to determine their eligibility is discriminatory in our view.

A myriad of organizations representing large sections of the Australian public and electorate have called on the Australian Government and opposition parties to finally end the discriminatory health requirement as part of the migration process.

The Joint Standing Committee on Migration (JSCM) which has been reviewing the treatment of disability as part of the migration regulations is expected to table its report to Parliament this month.

Lesley Hall, spokesperson for the organizations states that 'Australia's practice of subjecting potential migrants and refugees to Australia to a health assessment in order to determine their eligibility is discriminatory in our view.

The health test means that migrants and refugees with disability are routinely refused entry to Australia as a result of an assessment of the potential health costs associated with their illness or disability.'

'Such an approach to disability, a fact of life that may affect anyone in the community at any stage in life, is archaic and contrary to human rights principles. It completely ignores the varied and valuable contributions made by people with disability whether this is in employment, education or in family, social and cultural life. '

'We also believe that the migration regulations are in conflict with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) which Australia bypassed with an interpretative declaration' Hall notes.

Sibylle Kaczorek, further spokesperson for the organizations states that 'Mrs Simran Kaur current situation highlights the absurdity of the health requirement.'

Mrs Kaur has lived in Australia since May 2007 and has successfully completed a Diploma in Community Development since then. Her application for permanent residency has been rejected on the grounds of not meeting the health requirements due to her vision impairment. Mrs Kaur is financially supported by her husband. Her appeal to the Migration Review Tribunal was unsuccessful. Mrs Kaur is in the process of requesting a waiver from the Minister of Immigration.

Ms Kaczorek highlights that 'Australia workforce needs in the area of community services are growing. Here we have a qualified person who can contribute to our society through employment and bring valuable experiences but the migration regulations reject such a person on the basis of her vision impairment.'

Mrs Kaur herself states that 'I am compassionate and capable of not only living an independent and successful life but also helping others in need. For this I just need a fair chance and an opportunity. I would be contributing a lot more to the Australian community than what I would need in terms of assistance. Being a person with disability was never my choice but my abilities are!'

The organizations are calling on the Government and the opposition parties to support key changes:

1. Full application of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 to the Migration Act 1958 health assessment.

2. Improved consistency, transparency and administrative fairness for migrants and refugees with disability applying for an Australian visa.

3. Withdrawal of the Australian interpretive declaration made upon ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities pertaining to the health requirements for non nationals.

Sibylle Kaczorek is the Executive Officer at NEDA. The National Ethnic Disability Alliance is the national peak organization representing the rights and interests of people from non-English speaking background (NESB) with disability, their families and carers throughout Australia.

Lesley Hall is the Chief Executive Officer at AFDO. The Australian Federation of Disability Organizations has been established as the primary national voice to Government that fully represents the interests of all people with disability across Australia. Its mission is to champion the rights of people with disability in Australia and help them participate fully in Australian life.

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