Deportation threat devastates family

Rosa Schulze-Osthoff and Tom Owen with six-year-old Jakob and his five-year-old sister Lily. Photo supplied

A HAMILTON HILL family being threatened with deportation by the Albanese government because of their son’s Down syndrome say Australia immigration laws are discriminatory and need to brought into the 21st century. 

After hearing last week about a Perth family who’d been facing the same predicament but were granted residency after federal immigration minister Andrew Giles intervened in the case, Tom Owen and Rosa Schulze-Osthoff contacted the Herald about their situation.

“We feel utterly defeated,” said Mr Owen, father of six-year-old Jakob.

“Jay isn’t needing any assistance or hospital treatments, he is covered by the reciprocal health agreement, he has a British passport, not to mention I pay for the top private health.

“So regarding Jay costing the system, I don’t know where that comes from. It’s just not true.”

Federal law denies people permanent residency if they do not pass a “health-check”, but it contains so many criteria stacked against people with a disability, that it’s virtually impossible for them to qualify.

The immigration department had told the other Perth family that their son, who also has Down syndrome, would cost taxpayers $664,000 over a decade in medical costs.

But Mr Owen questions how the department arrived at that figure.

“How did they ever work that out? Unbelievable. They say a figure, but nobody can question it.” 

Mr Owen, who is English, says he and his German partner Rosa are “far from slackers”.

“That family were in ‘critical fields’- I don’t exactly know what that means. I am a carpenter. My partner was in the arts in Germany, doing hair, makeup and wig making… maybe not crucial, but she has three other jobs as well.”

Mr Owen has been in Australia nine years and says all up he paid over $30,000 in visas “in one way or another.”

The couple returned to Germany for Jakob’s birth, and despite having earned his points to qualify for permanent residency Mr Owen was told by the immigration department that he would no longer qualify for a visa because of his son’s disability and wouldn’t be allowed back in the country.

“Fast forward six years, we had obtained the only visa to allow us back into the country, a 456-sponsorship visa,” he said.


But the couple recently received another letter from the department saying that visa would soon expire and because of Jakob’s disability they would have to apply for a different category of visa – that comes with a daunting price tag.

“We are hearing now that apparently the provisional visa is going to cost (our family) $24,000,” Mr Owen said.

Rubbing salt into the wound, the department also refused to refund any of the $5,500 the family had initially paid for the rejected residency application.

The family say they’ve had no luck reaching out to government agencies: “You name it, we have reached out. We were not aware that we were not eligible to get any assistance with Jay,” Mr Owen said.

“For the last two years I have been emailing and calling every advocacy and government support, all to be turned down. 

“They just keep falling back on the immigration status. Without permanent residency you’re stuffed.”


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