SYDNEY (AFP) - An autistic Filipino boy whose fight against deportation from Australia prompted tens of thousands to petition the government on his behalf will be allowed to stay, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said on Monday.
Tyrone Sevilla arrived in Australia as a two-year-old with his nurse mother Maria Sevilla. But after eight years in the country, the pair were denied continuing visas due to the probable cost of providing for Tyrone's care, with Ms Sevilla saying they had been labelled a "burden" to taxpayers.
Mr Dutton said he had overturned the decision. "I looked at the case and I have determined we will provide these people with a permanent arrangement and permanent outcome in Australia and I think that's good for them," he said. "I'm very pleased we can provide the assistance to a young boy who is in need of medical and educational support and as a generous country that's what we do."
The case made headlines after one of Tyrone's young friends raised a question about the case on a live national television programme. "If he can get along with us and we can get along with him, why does he have to leave?" the child, who went to after-school care with Tyrone, asked.
More than 120,000 people subsequently signed a petition addressed to Mr Dutton to keep Tyrone and his mother, a registered nurse at Townsville Hospital, in Australia.
The Queensland Nurses' Union, which helped campaign on their behalf, said the pair were yet to be officially notified of the decision but were thrilled with the news.
"A formal and final sign-off from Minister Dutton's office in coming weeks will bring to an end many months of uncertainty and stress," union secretary Beth Mohle said.
"We all appreciate the minister's compassion on this issue and look forward to celebrating the final approval of Maria and Tyrone's permanent visas."
Australia takes a hard line against asylum-seekers arriving by boat, refusing them resettlement in the country even if found to be refugees and sending them instead to Pacific states.
Australia generally requires applicants seeking a visa to meet certain health criteria designed to protect the community's standard of public health and safety, health expenditure and access to services.