Tyrone Sevilla was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder as a toddler.
Tyrone Sevilla was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder as a toddler.

Boy, 11, takes stand to keep autistic friend in Australia

FOR the little autistic boy who couldn't speak, hope seemed lost.

Tyrone Sevilla had grown up in Australia, but bureaucrats declared he was a burden on society and told his mother they would both be deported back to the Philippines.

That incensed the youngster's 11-year-old pal, Ethan Egart, who last week sent a video question to a ABC's Q&A asking: "If he can get along with us and we can get along with him, why does he have to leave?"

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An outpouring of support followed, and more than 120,000 people signed a petition demanding the family be allowed to remain in Australia.

Ethan Egart, 11, appeared on ABC's Q&A; to call on the government to allow his friend Tyrone to stay in Australia
Ethan Egart, 11, appeared on ABC's Q&A; to call on the government to allow his friend Tyrone to stay in Australia

Yesterday, rather than being put on a flight to Manila, Maria Sevilla and son Tyrone, 10, handed the petition into the Brisbane office of Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton. He has pledged to look again at their case.

"There's a bridging visa that will be put in place until I can consider the application and hopefully we will get a common sense outcome," he said.

Dutton says he deals with hundreds of such cases but has to consider the cost to taxpayers.

Tyrone was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder as a toddler, six months after his mother migrated to Australia in 2007. She has since qualified as a registered nurse, and works with recovering stroke patients at Townsville Hospital in North Queensland.

Immigration officials rejected an application to extend her working visa and the decision was upheld by a Migration Review Tribunal, which cited the "significant cost to the Australian community" of the boy's health care.

Ethan Egart described his friend as "perfectly normal in every way". Ethan told panellists on the political panel show, Q&A: "He can read and ride a bike, but he has autism.

I went to after-school care with this boy and he can't speak, but he can use sign language to communicate with us."

Sevilla said she was overwhelmed by the youngster's intervention. "He became the voice of Tyrone," she told ABC Radio. "I feel we are not alone in this fight."


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