January 6, 2016 04:54 pm
A Sri Lankan man who works in a Christian crisis centre in remote Western Australia is appealing to the Federal Government to give his daughter, who has Down Syndrome, a “fair go”.
In 2014, the Immigration Department approved a temporary work visa for nine-year-old Eliza Fonseka’s parents, but not for the girl, because of concerns her condition could incur significant health care costs.
Last year Eliza’s father Angelo Fonseka moved to Shark Bay, 800 kilometres north of Perth, to use his visa to work at a Christian crisis centre.
His wife, Shanoline, stayed behind in Sri Lanka with their daughter.
Mr Fonseka has been separated from his partner and child for nine months and says it has been hard to concentrate without them.
“It’s so sad when my daughter says ‘Dad I miss you, come soon’,” he said.
“Eliza is the only immediate family member left in Sri Lanka, all the immediate family members are Australian citizens.”
Mr Fonseka said his daughter did not require medication and was not a burden.
“As parents, we’ve given everything from the day she was born and we don’t rely even on the Sri Lankan government,” he said.
“The same will be applicable if we move to Australia.
“All the immediate family members have given in writing that … they’re going to take the responsibility of Eliza; her grandparents, my sister, we as parents, even my sponsor.”
Mr Fonseka said Eliza had a mild form of Down Syndrome.
“She goes to a normal school and she does her daily routine very well, she travelled alone in a school van,” he said.
“She goes to a normal school studying with normal people.
“Eliza is not a burden, Eliza is not the problem here.”
Initially the Fonseka family struggled to have Eliza’s visa reviewed.
In February 2015, the Australian High Commission in Colombo apologised for an “unfortunate oversight” and re-issued Eliza’s refusal notification letter to include information about the family’s rights to access the Migration Review Tribunal.
The matter went to the Migration Review Tribunal, which upheld its original decision to refuse the application but referred the case to Immigration Minister Peter Dutton.
In October last year, the Migration Review Tribunal recommended the Minister intervene “on the basis of the compassionate circumstances of the case”.
A spokesman for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection said the matter was still under consideration.
The spokesman did not provide a deadline for when a decision would be reached.
Mr Fonseka has attracted support for his cause from a wealth of influential individuals and organisations, including Cricket Australia, West Australian Premier Colin Barnett, and the National Peak Disability Alliance.
Now he is appealing to Mr Dutton to give his daughter a “fair go”.
“Australia is a Christian country with a good heart,” he said.
“They’ve helped 6,500 Syrians to come to Australia with all of the benefits.
“I would say to the Minister to kindly consider everything and give compassion to my family as well, to look into the whole process on compassionate basis, and don’t separate my family.”