Australian petitioners rally for Bangladeshi doctor-couple facing deportation

6 Aug 2016: Dr Biswajit Banik and his wife Dr Sarmin Sayeed are not an average family unit trying to gain permanent residency in Australia. They aren’t the sort of candidates who would have to forge documents to prove their worthiness. They are not the type who may sit on Centrelink benefits once residency is granted simply because they do not need to, because they are on the elite side of professional career Australia can offer.

The couple, both from Bangladesh, are high-performing medical professionals. Both have remarkable academic track records. The husband is regarded as “an international expert in rural Men’s Health” and is an academic in the Faculty of Medicine at the Monash University in Melbourne. His wife is a much sought-after General Practitioner in Victoria who is also pursuing her own PhD. Together, they appear to have mentored many would-be doctors over the years since they arrived in Australia in 2007.

permanent residency
Dr Biswajit Banik, Dr armin Sayeed

However, despite their significant and clear-as-day contribution to Australia, these high-achieving parents could be sent back to Bangladesh as their application for permanent residency was rejected on 9 July 2015. The principal reason for the rejection, it is believed, was their son Arkojeet who has mild autism and as a result, could potentially be a “burden” on Australia.

But their supporters say Arkojeet is no burden because Dr Biswajit and his wife manage their son on their own, “without any burden whatsoever to the Australian community or Government funded resources.”

The decision is currently under review for a ministerial intervention. It remains to be seen if immigration minister Peter Dutton will follow suit of his predecessor, Scott Morrison, who in 2014 granted permanent residency to another Bangladeshi family that also had a child with similar medical conditions.

In a recent media interview, Dr Biswajit Banik said his family was “facing discrimination because of a disability and health condition that my son has. It’s just not right.”

A change.org petition launched by Health Watch Australia Pty Ltd, the employer of Dr Sarmin Sayeed, has attracted over 32,000 signatures calling for the immigration minister to intervene.

“Yet, despite their extraordinary personal and academic achievements and contributions to the Australian community over the last nine years, and their collective potential to make enormous future contributions to Australia and the wider international community, the Australian Government has decided that Sarmin and Jit’s value and personal efforts do not outweigh the ‘burden’ of accepting their child, Arkojeet aged 12, who has mild autism,” the online petition to the Minister for Immigration and Border Protection says.

Some medical students mentored by Dr Biswajit have commented on change.org to highlight his contribution to Australia’s medical sector. Wilson Lai, who apparently received tuition from Dr Biswajit, writes, “As an Australian citizen and soon to be doctor who will be servicing our diverse, multicutural population, I could NOT have progressed in my medical school career except for the excellent tuition of “Biswa” (how he was known to myself and all of my colleagues). He has personally and directly benefitted me and all of my peers in years before and years after who all love him.” (Sic) He further added that it would be a ”tragedy for Australia” to lose Dr Banik.

Bharat Pokharel, a lawyer with Sydney-based Benefit Legal, said this is not uncommon, “Unfortunate, but this is not the first time that such news has appeared in the media.”

Mr Pokharel suggested that DIBP requires all applicants to satisfy health and character requirements. “If one fails these requirements, all within that particular family unit fail and subsequently all of them will be rejected. Such decisions may seem harsh. However, Australia has unique health care system where we share such costs among us by paying Medicare levy. Government wants to ensure extra costs aren’t passed to them,” he explained.

Rohit Sharma from Hoppers Crossing also had glowing appreciation for the doctor-couple. “Dr “Biswa” Banik is the only reason I enjoyed some aspects of my medical course. He has a flair for teaching and is an extremely fair marker, and is an asset to Monash (University). His wife, Dr Sayeed, was also a tutor of mine three years ago and showed great passion and dedication to the material and her students. I remember these two doctors well because they stood out as exceptional mentors,” he said.

This is not the first time that highly skilled migrant families faced the prospect of deportation because they happen to have children with certain medical conditions. In 2014, another highly skilled couple was nearly deported back to their country of origin due to their son’s autism.

Coincidentally, Enamul and Siully Kabir and their eight year old son (at the time) Srijon also were from Bangladesh. Just as the Banik couple, the Kabirs also were highly skilled immigrants in that both had PhD degrees with one working as “an academic at the University of Queensland, the other a researcher in Biomedical Engineering”.

Following a huge media interest in their case and a change.org petition which was signed by 69,937 supporters, the Kabirs were finally granted permanent residency end of April 2014, just three weeks short of them being deported back to Bangladesh. Their bridging visa would have expired on 16 May 2014.

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