Immigration restrictions on health grounds to be relaxed

THE Federal govt is poised to relax immigration laws, which should lead to the admission of more immigrants with disabilities and medical conditions.

The govt is amending how it determines if impaired foreigners would unduly burden the Australian health system and the public purse.

More than one in 10 people on immigration blacklists are there because of health concerns – with analysis showing it has more to do with financial considerations than risk to Australians.

Of the 599 foreigners denied a visa on health grounds in 2010-11, after having a health examination, 392 failed on cost or prejudice of access grounds.

They were classified as being likely to cost governments more than $21,000 over five years — or three years for those aged 75 or older — or potentially stand in the way of Australians receiving treatments including organ transplants, blood and plasma products, and radiotherapy.

People with HIV, a heart condition or cancer have been blocked from entering Australia, as well as those with epilepsy, a mental illness or intellectual disability.

However, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship has foreshadowed an increase to the $21,000 health expenses threshold used to judge immigration applications, along with “wider reforms to the health requirement” in coming months.

The threshold has remain unchanged for a decade, and stakeholders have increased their campaign for reform, prompting the department to commission an external review by Allen Consulting. That confidential review has recommended a new formula that would increase the threshold.

The Australian has sought a copy of the external review, and a separate internal review, under under Freedom of Information laws but the department has delayed a decision.

However, a department spokesman this week confirmed Allen Consulting had recommended the threshold be raised and said an announcement was likely within months.

The reforms have taken so long — Allen Consulting reported to the department at the end of 2010, several months after a parliamentary inquiry demanded action — that some foreigners would have been denied entry under a threshold the department apparently accepts was too low.

The department reaffirmed the $21,000 figure in its latest manual for government-appointed medical officers, who are, controversially, required to ignore any evidence an applicant has insurance, a scholarship or other funds to pay their own way.

Some mining companies, in particular, have had to commit to paying medical bills of workers on 457 visas who would otherwise have been excluded from entry on health grounds.

The minister, Chris Bowen, can intervene, but the department does not collect data on the number of health cases that warrant his attention.

The parliamentary committee, chaired by Labor MP Michael Danby, was highly critical of the process, saying it reflected “old-fashioned approaches to disability in particular”.

Category: Migration News
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