Family At Risk Of Deportation From Australia After Son's Devastating Diagnosis
An Irish family living in Australia for 10 years faces the "soul-crushing" prospect of deportation after their son was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis.
The federal Department of Home Affairs has deemed Darragh Hyde, three years old, a "burden" on the country's health system, and refused his parents' application for permanent residency in Australia.
"It will be very heartbreaking to have to restart a new life with a three-year-old," parents Christine and Tony told The Project, in an interview to be aired Sunday night.
It would be soul crushing.
Christine and Tony decided to pack up their lives in Ireland and move to Australia in 2009.
They've been living in the regional town of Seymour, 100 kilometres north of Melbourne, where Christine works as an assistant principal and Tony volunteers with the State Emergency Service.
In late 2014, Christine fell pregnant.
"It was quite a shock to the system but we were really happy," she said.
"We were at the start of a new life and a new chapter for us."
The couple became eligible to apply for permanent residency a few months later, after Christine completed 12 months work as a regional teacher.
"I didn't think [being pregnant] was going to be any issue at all considering the pregnancy was fine," she said.
Their son Darragh was born in August 2015. Within weeks, the parents received the heartbreaking news their son had cystic fibrosis -- a genetic condition affecting the lungs and digestive system which requires ongoing medical treatment and physiotherapy.
Meanwhile, the family were undergoing medical tests as part of their permanent residency application, and were required to submit a doctor's letter detailing Darragh's condition.
The Department rejected their application on the grounds Darragh's condition meant he'd be a "burden to the state".
Tony described the news as "devastating".
“Everything that you work for, to build a life here, to give ourselves good opportunities and Darragh as well ... to then class your child as a burden, it was devastating," he said.
The average cost of medical care for those with the condition is between $14,000 and $50,000, depending on severity. Initially, Christine and Tony were told Darragh's condition was severe and could mean the need for a lung transplant in future, at a cost to the taxpayer.
Christine and Tony appealed the decision, arguing their son's condition was not severe.
"We don't really class him as sick ... he's treated as a normal child," Tony said.
“His specialist who sees him four times a year disagrees that he will need a lung transplant."
While their appeal was being reviewed, they began medicating Darragh with Kalydeco, a subsidised cystic fibrosis drug available under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.
Now, they've been told that cost is the problem.
The family will make a final appeal to the Administrative Review Tribunal On April 30.
But they've been told the Tribunal does not have the power to overturn their son's health assessment without intervention from Immigration Minister David Coleman.
In a statement to The Project, the Home Affairs department said it does not comment on individual cases and that it must determine whether an applicant would likely be a “significant cost to the Australian community”.
“What we’re asking for the minister, [and] the tribunals, to look at us as a whole family and what we already give back, rather than just a medical condition” Christine said.
They started an online petition calling on Coleman to save them from deportation, which now has over 27,500 signatures.
Watch their full interview on The Sunday Project at 6:30pm on Sunday on Channel 10.