Outcry as gravely ill Australian boy threatened with deportation to Pakistan because of medical bills

Giovanni Torre
The paralysed Perth boy is facing deportation over the cost of his medical treatment

A gravely ill Australian boy faces deportation to Pakistan over the cost of his medical care, despite having never lived there, sparking a public outcry.

Shaffan Muhammad Ghulam was born in Australia but is facing deportation to his parents’ home country after his application for permanent residency was rejected because of the costs of his ongoing medical care.

More than 41,000 people have petitioned the government to reverse the decision. Shaffan, who lives in Perth, suffers from the condition chondrodysplasia punctata which affects bone and cartilage development.

A spinal jury he sustained when six months old left him paralysed, and he relies on a ventilator.

His parents say his life would be at risk if he had to fly because of respitory decompensation in a low-pressure aeroplane cabin.

Shaffan’s father, Qasim Butt, came to Australia to study a Master of Professional Accounting and remained on a graduate visa.

When that expired three years ago, he and his wife applied for permanent residency for their family, including Shaffan’s two-year-old sister.

The Department of Immigration ruled in late August they are not eligible because their son's ongoing medical care needs were considered too costly.

Over six days, more than 41,000 people have signed Mr Butt’s petition to the Immigration Minister David Coleman to intervene, and more than 16,000 people have donated to help him. 

In the petition, Mr Butt wrote that Shaffan’s treating paediatric consultant said the boy is “not fit for air travel”.

“We do not have the medical expertise in my country of origin to care for such a complex patient… He has survived so far because of the excellent health care he has received in Perth Australia.

“I sometimes do two jobs to support my family. My wife Mehwish… looks after our son with full responsibility and is a great mother.For both my children Australia is home. We are requesting the Minister intervene on compassionate grounds and grant our visa. This is our only hope for my son Shaffan.”

A spokesperson for Minister Coleman told The Telegraph the Minister does not comment on individual cases.

However, it is understood Shaffan's case is with the Department and expected to meet the guidelines for a Ministerial review, meaning it is very likely it will come before the Minister himself.

The spokesperson confirmed the Minister has wide discretionary powers and, unlike the Department, is not bound by the relevant legislation in making his decision.