Disabled asylum seekers at risk with no access to NDIS

Sanctuary Australia FoundationBlog

Sanctuary is working to seek justice for a young Iraqi woman, Salma*, who arrived in Australia by boat as a refugee with her disabled sister, Maha*. Her story is truly shocking. They were imprisoned on Christmas Island having committed no crime but to seek safety and asylum, then transferred to Darwin for a short time before being moved to Villawood Detention Centre in Sydney. They were later released on a Temporary Visa, and Salma met her partner. Sadly, she was hospitalised after suffering domestic violence, and had to flee with disabled sister, Maha, in a wheelchair.

Salma was told that her only hope for permanent residency was to find work in a regional area for a minimum of 5 years under a SHEVS (Safer Haven Enterprise) visa. She came to Coffs Harbour and found work in a childcare centre. Her son is now 8 years old and suffers with ADHD.

Meanwhile, Maha’s cerebral palsy has worsened without ongoing treatment, and Salma is exhausted as her only carer 24/7, not an easy task when working as well. Maha has no access to the NDIS or similar services as she is on a temporary visa.

Now thanks to intervention by Peter Hallam with our local MP Pat Conaghan, there is light on the horizon. Pat has described this as a ‘dire situation’ and will make representation to the new Minister of Immigration next week, and hopefully their life will be changed for the better.

Once they are finally permanent residents, Maha will have the NDIS support she so badly needs at last and Salma will feel safe and able to plan for their future. We will continue to provide updates on this story.

*names have been changed to protect privacy

Further information on this topic is available here: https://www.refugeecouncil.org.au/disability-report/10/