A Perth community is rallying behind a local family facing deportation to India after their four-year-old daughter's "learning difficulties" were branded a "burden on the country" by the Department of Home Affairs.
Navneet Kaur, the "amazing heart" of a popular Perth café and bar, her husband, and young daughter Iris, have been given just days to leave the country after it was determined the Australian-born girl's condition was expected to put costly pressure on the Western Australian health system.
Leading the push to keep the family in the country is Wes D'Arcy, Ms Kaur's close friend, employer and owner of the Jarrah Bar and Café at Hillarys Boat Harbour, who says the "amazing" mum is a pillar of the community, and the backbone of his business who simply "loves Australia" and wants to stay here.
Ms Kaur, in her late 30s, first came to Australian eight years ago from India and is a qualified doctor. She initially pursued a career in medicine, but "couldn't further that career" due to the visa she entered the country on, and later changed course and decided to take on cooking.
After studying to be a chef, Ms Kaur met Mr D'Arcy, with the pair now having worked together for some five years across multiple business ventures. Ms Kaur went through "all the processes" to be granted permanent residency, however due to Iris's condition, her application was eventually declined.
She was given just 21 days to exit the country. Her brother, close network of friends and other loved ones are all based in Western Australia.
Family given only 'days' to leave Australia
Mr D'Arcy said that even doctors haven't be able to pinpoint exactly what little Iris lives with, though it's been described as "slow learning", with the four-year-old completing tasks similarly to how a two-year-old would.
Doctors have maintained, Mr D'Arcy says, that Iris will grow out of the condition and in adolescence and adulthood will have no problem entering the workforce.
"She's just, you know, been amazing, just like a sister to me," Mr D'Arcy told Yahoo News Australia. "I've seen her get married and have a child and, you know, grow in the community."
"She went through all the processes for PR [permanent residency], so she's ultimately eligible and has been here long enough to then apply for citizenship straight away," Mr D'Arcy explained. "But they've prohibited her from advancing in that because your PR is subject to a medical (evaluation) and the child failed on that basis."
'Iris was born in Australia and hasn't left'
"Iris was born in Australia and has never left. If she had a voice, she'd say she's Australian," Mr D'Arcy said.
"They've been told, basically, that Iris is a burden on the state because she's not perfect.
"So they've been told 'you gotta go, you can't advance', and 'we will not be approving your permanent residency' — despite all of the pathways having been adhered to along the way, and their commitment to the community, always working, always paying tax.
"They (the federal government) made up some stupid figure that they pulled out of the air to say that for the next three years for the help that she (Iris) needs, it's going to cost $140,000."
Though it's not been able to be identified exactly what Iris struggles with, doctors have ruled out some conditions including Down syndrome and autism.
Outrage as community responds to 'scandalous' decision
The decision to deport Ms Kaur and her family has been met with "outrage" and "uproar" in Perth, with many slamming the government's treatment of the trio.
"It's gone wild over here," Mr D'Arcy said. "A scandal. You know, it's just exploding, and there's so many cases like this."
The most ironic part of the saga, the business owner claims, is that Western Australia is suffering from a serious worker shortage, particularly in the hospitality sector.
Losing Ms Kaur and her dedicated expertise in the field would prove to be a devastating loss not just to his businesses, many of which Ms Kaur is involved in, but to the community at large.
Though trying her best to remain calm, the news has left the young mum "very stressed out" and "very hurt" by a system she thought she trusted, with just days remaining until she's forced to leave.
'Ridiculous' decision slammed online
Hundreds of Aussies commenting on social media have stood behind the family, expressing their outrage over their treatment.
"Disgusting, the government has no heart," a person said. "How can they be a burden. They are here working and paying taxes," said another. "The child is an Australian citizen and the government is turning their back on one of their own! Absolute disgrace on the Australian government".
"No way! This child is an Australian, come on WA government — this is ridiculous. Show some sense and compassion, her parents are working and paying taxes, how is this beautiful child a burden on society."
The Department of Home Affairs has been contacted for comment.
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