“Dear Mr Dutton, can I stay in Australia please?”
This is the message a 10-year-old autistic boy has scrawled in a scrapbook for Immigration Minister Peter Dutton to avoid being deported back to his country of birth, the Philippines.
Nurse Maria Sevilla and her son Tyrone claim the Department of Immigration rejected their latest visa applications solely because he has autism.
On Monday, Mr Dutton strongly indicated the boy would be allowed to stay in Australia.
“I need to have a look at the particular facts in relation to this case but on the details as they’re made known to me at the moment, I think this is a case where we would be able to help the family,” he told Radio National’s Drive program.
“In many of these cases we want to try and provide support to families that are in a very difficult situation, we have to weigh up all of the circumstances and particulars of the relevant case.
“I hope that we can provide a good outcome for this family that I think they deserve.”
The Townsville residents have been living in Australia on various visas for the past eight years.
Tyrone only speaks English and his mother, whose parents are Australian citizens and who has no immediate family in the Philippines, fears his condition would go backwards if she’s forced to leave.
“We have received seven pages … from the immigration department stating that Tyrone would be a burden to the Australian government because he was diagnosed with autism,” Ms Sevilla said.
“This is because he’d need support, for example respite, community care and hospital care.”
Mr Dutton is the pair’s last chance to reverse the decision after a tribunal upheld immigration officials’ refusal.
Ms Sevilla, who has private health cover and is a registered nurse, said the rejection has been heart-wrenching.
“As a mother, to have someone from the government label your child as a burden to society, it’s too much to hear and accept,” she said.
“I’m planning to support his future as long as I can.”
Ms Sevilla handed a petition signed by more than 120,000 people, including former patients and Tyrone’s classmates, to Mr Dutton’s Queensland electorate office on Monday.
The pair are on a bridging visa until Mr Dutton hands down his decision.
Ms Sevilla’s case attracted national headlines after a friend of Tyrone’s raised it on the ABC’s Q&A program last week.
Darwin boy Ethan Egart used to live in Townsville, where his mother studied nursing with Ms Sevilla, and the two boys went to the same after-school care.
In his question, Ethan asked: “If he can get along with us and we can get along with him, why does he have to leave?”
Ethan described his friend as a “good kid”.
It gave the petition a boost of 40,000 signatures.