South African mother devastated as government forces her to leave Australia

The Ingram family has been reunited but not in the way they wanted.


After years of refusals from and appeals to the Australian government, the Ingrams are back together in their hometown of Port Elizabeth in South Africa.

“The whole family is back now as [son] Brett had been stranded here since February 2016,” Jacqui Ingram told SBS News.

“We left Australia on February 22, 2017 as our second ministerial intervention request was not successful.”

The family is left wondering why she was ordered to leave when they insisted they could cover her medical costs and they were offering a valuable service to Canberra’s disabled community.

Related readingThe long road to refusal

Jacqui Ingram and her husband Clive had been living in Australia since 2011.

In 2012, Mrs Ingram was diagnosed with a chronic kidney condition.

Eight months after her diagnosis, the family made an application for permanent residency in Australia, which was refused in 2013.

In 2014, she was advised her appeal for ministerial intervention had also been refused and she was expected to leave the country.

The dispute culminated late last year with the Immigration Department refusing to accept the family’s second appeal for ministerial intervention.

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“The minister has indicated in his guidelines that he does not wish to consider repeat requests unless the department assesses that they raise new, substantive issues,” correspondence from the Department to the family said.

Mrs Ingram maintained her condition did not stop her working with a Canberra disability agency where her husband also worked.

“Where a person has a specific medical condition, this condition in itself will not result in a failure to meet the health requirement, it is where the estimated lifetime costs exceeds the $40,000 cost threshold,” a spokesperson for the Immigration Department told SBS News.

“This is assessed against a hypothetical person with a condition of the same level and severity of the applicant or which would result in prejudice to the access of Australian citizens or permanent residents to health care and community services.”

WATCH: SBS News met the Ingram family in November 2016

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Similar cases, different outcomes

Mrs Ingram had been attempting to make personal appeals to the Immigration Minister Peter Dutton and Assistant Minister Alex Hawke.

She said it was most upset after seeing a case similar to hers reported by SBS that resulted in a positive ministerial intervention.

Earlier this year, Minister Hawke personally overturned a decision ordering a teenager with autism to leave the country.

The minister told the family they were making an invaluable contribution to Australian society.

“Why then could it not be done for us? Both Clive and I were making very valuable contributions to the disabled community in Canberra,” she said.

“Our clients are still asking for us.”

But every case should be seen on its own merits, the Immigration Department said.

‘Why then could it not be done for us? Both Clive and I were making very valuable contributions to the disabled community in Canberra.’

“Every case is unique in its details and claims, even if there are superficial similarities, and the Minister considers each case on its own merits,” the department said.

“The minister only intervenes in a relatively small number of cases which present unique and exceptional circumstances.”

Mrs Ingram said her daughter Caitlin belonged in Australia, not South Africa.

“She is not coping very well being back as she does not understand this system having [been] schooled in Australia for most of her life,” she said.

“The school system is crumbling in South Africa with the crime and corruption. We also fear for her safety with the crime rate being very bad.” 

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