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Germany

Australians Rally Around German Doctor, Disabled Son

Australians on Tuesday rallied behind a German doctor ordered to leave the country because of the cost to taxpayers of looking after his disabled 13-year-old son.

A supplied undated 2008 family photo released Oct. 31, 2008 of Dr Bernard Moeller (center) with sons Lukas, 13 (left), and Felix, 17

Moeller is getting support for his case from high-ranking Australians

Bernhard Moeller has been on a temporary visa since arriving in 2005 to work at a hospital in rural Horsham. Last week, he was denied permanent residency by the Immigration Department because his son, Lukas, has Down syndrome and "is likely to result in costs to the Australian community that are significant."

If Moeller's appeal is unsuccessful, he would have to leave by 2010. He said that Lukas was aware of the visa difficulties and that it was best for the family to leave well before the deadline.

An appeal could take six months to hear. Others who have appealed in similar cases have had permanent residency granted by the minister.

John Brumby, who as premier of the state of Victoria is Moeller's employer, has spoken to Moeller and promised to lobby Immigration Minister Chris Evans on his behalf.

"It's a matter of urgency that we get this issue looked into," Brumby said. "We're doing everything we can do to see Dr. Moeller and his family stay in Horsham."

Rural Doctors Association President Nola Maxfield said that Evans should overturn the decision immediately rather than waiting to act until the outcome of the appeal is known.

"Overseas-trained doctors should get all the gratitude and support we can offer, because without them the pressure on the health system would be enormous," she said.

Politicians: appeal should be fast-tracked

John Forrest, the member of parliament for Horsham, has joined calls for the appeals process to be fast-tracked to ensure Moeller is not lost to Horsham.

Human Rights Commissioner Graeme Innes is lobbying on Moeller's behalf, arguing that the law must be changed to remove the ability of the government to discriminate against people with disabilities in visa cases.

"The Moeller case is by no means the first time this situation has come up, and I don't expect it to be the last, which is why a change in the law is necessary," Innes said.

According to the Immigration Department ruling, the potential cost of care for Lukas "would be several hundred thousand dollars over his lifetime."

Moeller has disputed this, saying Lukas attends a mainstream school, that the family is ready to cover any additional cost, and that as a well-qualified professional in high demand he is unlikely to face unemployment.

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