After living and working in Australia for nine years, Monash University academic Biswajit Banik and his family have been told to get packing. The immigration department has refused the family’s application for permanent residency on the basis that their 12-year old son – who has an autism diagnosis – will be a burden on the Australian economy.
Biswajit, his partner Dr Sarmin Sayeed and their son Arkojeet now face the prospect of being forced to return to Bangladesh. Since submitting their application in December 2014, Biswajit and his family been kept in a hellish limbo.
“My son still had a visa until July this year, so we thought it would not be a problem. After July, though, everything changed. That’s when I thought ‘Oh, god. Everything could go terribly wrong’. That’s when I really felt the desperation.”
“I wake up in the middle of the night, thinking ‘What would happen if the minister said no?’ It’s taking control of my mind, of my life.
“Now he [Arkojeet] is on a three-month visa, and when it ends he will have to leave the country in 28 days. There are conditions attached. If he travels, if he leaves Australia, he won’t be allowed back in for three years.
“As a father, it would be a shame that when my son most needed my support I could not give it.”
A public campaign has begun in a frenzied push by students and colleagues of the Baniks to overturn the department’s decision through an appeal to immigration minister Peter Dutton.
Solidarity photograph actions have been held at numerous university campuses, with more than 150 students and staff gathering at Monash’s Clayton campus to take a stand against the planned deportation. The crowd heard speeches from tertiary union representatives, Aboriginal activists and students with autism. One student spoke out against the government’s deportation powers. “Will you deport me, Mr Dutton?”, he asked after explaining that he was a person with autism who arrived in Australia at age five.
Academics have signed an open letter calling for the family to be allowed to remain in Australia, with union officials and delegates also signing in a showing of solidarity.
To find out more about the campaign, or to sign the open letter, search for “MSA Environment and Social Justice Collective” on Facebook