‘Ridiculous’: South African tradie may be denied residency due to son’s diabetes

A “much-loved” Geelong tradie and his family may be forced to return to South Africa after immigration agents told them their son’s diabetes diagnosis could be a “liability” on the taxpayer.

Nico Willers, 44, his wife Jane and their three children – twins Nico and Esme, 13, and 8-year-old Karla – moved from Pretoria to Geelong last May to work as a pumper for a local company that was fighting for hold the position for six years, v The Geelong Advertiser reported.

Webster Water Solutions sponsored the family on a four-year temporary skills shortage 482 visa, with Katrina Harris, director of the Belmont-based company, describing Mr Willers as a “god send” and “irreplaceable”.

Mr Willers had a similar company in South Africa but was unable to secure any projects.

“He has over 20 years of experience,” Ms Harris told the paper. “We deal with pumps and water management … a plumber can’t do that. We searched all over Australia and New Zealand to find a technician.”

The family settled happily into their new life in the Victorian harbor town, but last August Nico was diagnosed with type one diabetes.

“He was very tired all the time and complained of a stomach ache,” Willers said.

After Nico “went downhill fast”, he was taken to Geelong Hospital and spent five days in intensive care. He now measures insulin and blood sugar several times a day via an app on his phone.

Mr Willers said The Geelong Advertiser that the family wanted to stay in the city, but was told by several immigration agents that they might not be granted permanent residency because of Nic’s diabetes, which is considered a “disability.”

The family spent $24,000 to move to Australia, and applying for permanent residency could cost them $15,000 in legal fees, $4,640 per adult and $1,160 for minors.

“Agents are saying it could be a problem, but no one is giving us a straight answer,” Mr Willers said. “Some said our chances of getting permanent residency were next to nothing, but others said we could try.”

I’m talking to Seven’s Sunrise on Tuesday Mr. Willers said the family was told Nico’s diabetes could be seen as a “liability”.

“They say it’s going to cost the country money, but right now we’re doing all the payments ourselves, all the monitoring, all the injections,” he said. “It’s all out of our pockets. Their theory is that it will empty the pockets of taxpayers.”

Mr Willers argued that the government should consider his job security given the difficulty the company was facing in filling the role.

“We had one guy who started the same month, he lasted about a week,” he said.

“There is a huge lack of business at the moment. We talk to people, they say they don’t know. They can’t give us a straight answer. We paid all the medical bills out of our own pockets anyway.”

He said the family feared returning to South Africa because of the deteriorating security and economic situation there.

“Looking for work for us in South Africa … it’s not good at the moment,” he said.

“It is very important for us to survive here and to stay here. And given my son’s health, he is currently receiving the best medical care. So it is better for him to stay here and for us to have a better life. And just normal security for everyone. You can go to the parks, you can’t in South Africa. You can’t even ride a bike on the roads anymore, just for safety reasons.”

Sunrise Presenter Nat Barr said it was “ridiculous” that Australia was letting “hundreds of foreign-born criminals and rapists remain in this country” but a “much-loved family” may be forced to move back to South Africa.

A spokeswoman for the Home Office said the department did not comment on individual cases, but medical waivers were “available for a number of visa subclasses where visa processing officers may take into account applicants’ individual personal circumstances”.

“Just because a person has not met the medical requirements does not mean that their visa will be refused,” she said.

“If the authorized decision maker enforces a health care waiver, the visa may still be granted. More than 99 percent of visa applicants meet the medical requirements.

Immigration Minister Andrew Giles has faced calls to resign in recent weeks over his controversial Directive 99, issued in early 2023, which allowed dozens of serious criminals to remain in Australia.

The directive required the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) to take into account an individual’s connection to the community when reviewing deportation appeals, leading to the reversal of visa cancellations for many criminal non-citizens.

In one case, a Sudanese refugee with a lengthy record that included knife crime, car theft, serious driving offences, arrest warrants for violence, stalking and domestic assault was allowed to stay after telling a court he identified as Aboriginal .

Other visa cancellations overturned by the AAT under the directive included an Afghan national who raped a 16-year-old girl and a 14-year-old disabled child, a New Zealander who was convicted of raping his stepdaughter and a British man who, 26 -attacked women several times.

The embattled immigration minister issued new legal guidance on Friday to replace Directive 99. Under Directive 110, community safety will be the most important factor when immigration officials and courts decide whether to revoke or reinstate an individual’s visa. while importance will be attached to ties with non-citizens. they will be removed back to Australia.

“The revised guidance makes it clear that the safety of the Australian community is the highest priority of the Albanian government and thus includes this as a key decision-making principle,” Mr. Giles told reporters in Melbourne.

“It also elevates the impact of victims of domestic violence and their families into one of the existing primary considerations, reflecting the Government’s zero-tolerance approach to domestic and family violence.”

Mr Giles faulted the AAT for its interpretation of the earlier directive, saying it was “clear that the AAT has made a number of decisions independently of the government which do not reflect the government’s intentions or meet the expectations of the community”.

“This new change in direction makes it clear that the Government expects greater weight to be placed on the protection of the Australian community in visa decisions,” he said.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton continued his attacks on the immigration minister on Friday and called on Prime Minister Anthony Albanese to apologise.

“There are people who have become victims of these criminals who have remained in our country and they should be deported,” he said.

Mr Dutton said the new directive would still reverse visa cancellations for non-citizen criminals. “This new Directive 110 doesn’t change the circumstances very much at all, and it will still produce the results we’ve seen when we’ve allowed these people to stay in our community,” he said.

frank.chung@news.com.au

— with NCA NewsWire

Read related topics:Immigration

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