Refusal of visas on grounds of a child’s disability an example of “illiberal democracy” and “breaks all the rules of human decency”
Independent NUI Senator Rónán Mullen today raised the cases of two families who were refused residency permits by Australia and New Zealand on the grounds that, in each case, one of their children has a disability.
Raising a Commencement Matter in the Seanad, Senator Mullen mentioned the case of the Mrs Nilani Suhinthan who moved from Ireland to New Zealand to take up an IT consultancy post. Mrs Suhinthan, her husband and two of their three children were granted a residency permit but their third child, Bumikka, who has Down Syndrome, was refused a permit on the grounds that she did not have “an acceptable standard of health” according to the New Zealand authorities.
Senator Mullen also raised the case of the Hyde family who moved from Dublin to Victoria, Australia in 2009. Their son, Darragh, was born in 2015 and has since been diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis. As a result of this diagnosis, the family has been denied permanent residency in Australia and that decision is currently being appealed to the country’s immigration minister.
Speaking about these cases, Senator Mullen asked if such discriminatory treatment was an example of ‘illiberal democracy’ in action.
In his reply on behalf of the Government Minister David Stanton said that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade had not been asked by the families concerned to raise the cases, but Senator Mullen said that the known facts of the cases were such that the Irish Government should be concerned to protest against the decisions in any event.
In reply to Senator Mullen’s question as to whether the Irish immigration authorities would act in a similarly discriminatory fashion, Minister Stanton said that where a medical condition “could potentially be a burden on the costs of the state”, it would “form part of the consideration of the application but it would not mean that it would automatically lead to a refusal.”
Speaking afterwards, Senator Mullen said that the Government’s answer was not reassuring. “We have gone to considerable lengths as a country to ensure that disability is not unjustly invoked as a ground for discrimination either in employment or in the provision of services. It would be perverse to ever put up a child’s disability as a hurdle to his or her, or their family, getting a residency in the State. That breaks all the rules of human decency,” Senator Mullen said.
Note to editor: Transcript of Seanad input available here