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Dr Bernard Moeller,center, with sons Lukas, 13, left, and Felix, 17
The Moellers have won the right to stay in AustraliaImage: picture-alliance /dpa

Long Visa Battle

DW staff (sbc)
November 26, 2008

A German doctor with a Down syndrome child has won his fight to stay in Australia, after earlier being told to pack up and leave.


Bernhard Moeller had been on a temporary visa since arriving in Australia in 2005 to work at a hospital in rural Horsham.

Earlier this year, the immigration department demanded he leave the country, deeming the public cost of medical treatment for his 13-year-old son Lukas, who has Down Syndrome, too high.

Just hours after Moeller lost his final appeal before the Migration Review Tribunal on Tuesday, Nov. 25, Immigration Minister Chris Evans interceded and used his discretionary powers to grant permanent residency.

Doctor shortage in rural Australia

"It was clear to me that Dr. Moeller and his family are making a very valuable contribution to their local community," said Evans. "Their continued presence in Australia will be beneficial to our society. I'm pleased they have chosen to call Australia home."

Moeller moved to rural Australia along with his wife and three children to help fill a doctor shortage there. Australia's doctor shortage is particularly critical in rural areas. The government has responded by granting visas to foreign doctors and nurses to help ease the over-stretched health system.

"We have been lucky with the amount of support we have experienced from all around Australia. Australians are such friendly people who look after each other," Moeller said after Evans stepped in and thousands of letters of public backing had been sent to government officials.

Moeller told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that waiting for the news had been stressful. "But now I am really happy," he said. "We've been jumping for joy."

"Dad will fix it"

Moeller said Lukas was aware of the setbacks but did not understand the full impact of it.

"We kept the bad things away from him," he said. "He was confident that his dad will fix it for him."

Evans said he would seek to change national immigration laws to allow health requirements for permanent visa applicants to be waived in cases such as the Moellers.

Down syndrome, a genetic defect, causes delays in the way a child develops, both mentally and physically. It affects about one in every 800 babies. While the average life expectancy for a person with Down syndrome was nine years in the 1920s, today it has risen to 60 years.

Children with the condition are generally integrated into the schooling system, and adults are able to live by themselves.

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