Irish family ‘terrified’ about deportation after son diagnosed with CF in Australia

Three-year-old Darragh, who has cystic fibrosis, deemed a ‘burden’ on the country

An Irish family who have lived in Australia for nearly ten years say they are "terrified" at the prospect of being deported, after their three-year-old son, who was born there with cystic fibrosis, has been deemed to be a "burden" on the country.

Christine and Anthony Hyde, originally from Dublin, currently live in Seymour, a small town about an hour and a half outside Melbourne.

Christine is currently working an acting assistant principal in a primary school, while Anthony is a part-time bus driver.

In 2015, the couple submitted an expression of interest to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection to say they would like to apply for a skilled visa and permanent residency. Due to the shortage of qualified teachers in rural areas, they met the criteria, and were invited to apply for permanent residency.

As they started submitting paperwork, they were informed that they would have to undergo a medical assessment. As Christine was pregnant at the time, she had to wait to have her assessment, as it involved x-rays.

On August 18th, 2015, Christine gave birth to their son Darragh. At eight weeks old, a heel prick test concluded that Darragh had cystic fibrosis.

As Darragh was born to non-residents of Australia, he had to be added to the couple’s immigration application and undergo his own medical assessment. As he had been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, they were told to get their GP to submit a letter detailing Darragh’s condition.

At the time, they had no reason to think that this would affect the status of their application. But a medical officer determined that Darragh’s condition could mean the need for a lung transplant, and medical treatment at a cost to the Australian taxpayer.

He was deemed a financial “burden” on the country, and the family’s application for permanent residency was refused. A lawyer advised the family to appeal the decision.

“We have been appealing that decision ever since,” says Christine.

A medical officer who has never personally assessed Darragh categorised his condition as “severe”. But Christine claims Darragh’s own specialists disagree with this assessment, and says his condition is actually “very mild”. He takes the cystic fibrosis drug Kalydeco, which has “done wonders” for his health.

“He has never been admitted to hospital,” she says. “I have friends over here who go to the hospital more regularly than Darragh for croup cough and broken bones and everything else. He’s just a normal three-year-old.”

Later, the medical officer revised his opinion, concluding that Darragh’s condition was in fact mild. But he was still deemed to be a burden, as the cost of his medication is subsidised by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

Despite being born in Australia and never having lived anywhere else, Darragh is not a citizen.

"He is not seen as a citizen or resident," says Christine. "He is a citizen of Ireland and has an Irish passport, yet he has never stepped foot in Ireland."

After more than three years of appeals, the Hyde family have stepped up their efforts to get the decision overturned. They have set up an online petition, which has attracted thousands of signatures. Additionally, they have gotten significant attention from Australian media outlets.

On April 30th, the couple will make their final appeal to the Administrative Review Tribunal to intervene in their case. While the tribunal itself can’t overturn the decision, they can refer the family’s case to the minister for immigration.

If the case is referred, Christine hopes that the minister will use his powers to overturn the decision on compassionate grounds. But she is aware they might not achieve this outcome.

“They may or may not refer us to the minister,” says Christine. “If they don’t, we have 28 days to leave.”

As a result, the family have been forced to think about a possible return to Ireland. With no job, home, or medical treatment in place for Darragh, they would be forced to start over from scratch.

“Darragh has no PPS number or anything. We would have to start applying for that. We don’t have a house. We don’t have anywhere to live,” she says.

“I don’t know how we’re going to get rent without any job or any bank account. I feel like we’re going to get off a plane and be homeless. It’s just… there’s nothing.

“I am terrified. I am so scared but we’re trying to do the best we can for Darragh so that we know that no matter what happens, we put up the best fight.”

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