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Woman with Down's syndrome Ashleigh Callaway denied visa for Australia unless she takes medical tests

By Alan Smith

A young woman with Down's Syndrome has been told she cannot visit her father in Australia unless she passes a rigorous medical examination.

Ashleigh Callaway, 24, applied for a four-week holiday visa to visit her father Darren Callaway and other relatives in Perth in Western Australia.

However, her dream trip has been scuppered by the Australian High Commission, which said she would first have to undergo a medical examination before her application would be considered.

Ashleigh Callaway
Ashleigh Callaway

Her mother Karen Tweedie said: "It's disgusting. You or I wouldn't be asked to undergo a medical. This is only because she has Down's.

"You wouldn't think this would still happen in the 21st century.

"They are not treating her as an individual with human rights, the same as everybody else. She shouldn't have to undergo this stress and anxiety."

Ashleigh lives in sheltered accommodation in Sittingbourne run by Symbol Family Support Services.

She has suffered medical problems in the past as a result of her condition.

She's had a heart operation and has two metal rods in her back to correct a problem with sclerosis, but she is not currently needing any medical treatment.

Mrs Tweedie said: "If she did need any attention while she was out there, it's not as though she would be burden on Australia - she would have medical insurance."

Ashleigh Callaway
Ashleigh Callaway

The family has had repeated difficulties with the Australian authorities. They had hoped to move to Australia permanently and stayed there for 11 months on a 12-month visa in 2003.

But the Australian Government said they would not renew Ashleigh's visa, although Karen, her then husband and their other child were granted permission to stay.

Instead Ashleigh and her mother returned to the UK.

Since then, Ashleigh's parents have both divorced and found new partners, but Ashleigh still likes to visit her father, brother, step-sister, uncle and 82-year-old grandfather who all live in Australia.

She has made several holiday trips in the past, and although its always been a struggle to obtain a visa, one has always been granted eventually - without this demand for a medical exam.

Ashleigh already has her flight out booked for May 6, and her return trip for June 3.

"People with Down’s syndrome should have the same opportunities as everyone else, in every area of life, including international travel..." Carol Boys

Her father has started on online petition to persuade the authorities to change their minds, which has already been signed by more than 700 people.

He said: "Ashleigh has no terminal or infectious diseases that would harm anyone. She is a very outgoing and loving person. This should not be happening to her."

Carol Boys, chief executive of The Down's Association, said: “We are shocked to hear about the struggles of Ashleigh and her family in obtaining a tourist visa for Australia. This is a human rights issue and Ashleigh is clearly being discriminated against because she has Down’s syndrome.

"People with Down’s syndrome should have the same opportunities as everyone else, in every area of life, including international travel.

"The DSA is here to support people with Down’s syndrome and their families and we will use our international contacts to do everything we can to help the situation. This is not an isolated incident, and Australia is not the only country that needs to make improvements to its laws surrounding immigration.”

Visit the petition here.

The Australian High Commission has not yet responded to requests for comment.

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