Lankan family living in NZ may be deported after 8 years

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By 2017-11-15

After eight years of living and working in New Zealand (NZ), a five-member Sri Lankan family faces having to return to Sri Lanka after the parents' work visas were cancelled.

The Wijerathne family comprises Sam Wijerathne, Dinesha Amarasinghe Wijerathne, and three sons, Subath Wijerathne (11-years-old), Binath Wijerathne (10-years-old) and Senath Wijerathne (eight-years-old).

The family which is presently living in a one-bedroom, former camping ground cabin in Queenstown, and which is where the boys attend the Queenstown Primary School, has been informed that they have to leave the country on 21 November.

Dinesha who is a chef at a local restaurant has had her most recent application for a skilled worker temporary visa been rejected, while Sam who was granted an open work permit on the basis of Dinesha's visa, is employed as a taxi driver. Dinesha is also suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS), a condition she was diagnosed with in May 2015. However, by October this year, Dinesha has been unable to work owing to her health. Since her temporary work visa application has been declined, her husband too was declined for a work visa-partner and he also does not fit the "skilled employment" category.

According to Area Manager of Immigration NZ, Marcelle Foley, the processing of the family's residence visa application has been suspended since July. The processing of their residence visa has now been suspended as they have been unlawful in NZ since July, she added.

Confusing the family though is the fact that Dinesha was granted a new temporary work visa in 2016, despite her MS diagnosis.

The family's lawyer, Shane Robinson, says that Immigration NZ's operational instructions state that MS disqualifies someone from getting a temporary work visa but Immigration NZ allowed it in this case partly because it was unclear as to what degree her health issues were caused by a fall which took place in 2014 and there was the ability to grant a waiver in the case of a residence visa application (the processing of which was still in progress at the time).

Foley said that the Immigration NZ was aware in 2016 that Dinesha had MS. However, it was not until this year that they became aware that she had had a prolonged absence from work and the fact that Dinesha had acknowledged that she would be unable to work in full-time employment for some time.

According to Foley, Dinesha had been advised that she was likely to impose significant costs or demands on NZ's health services or special education services.

"All non-NZers coming to NZ must have an acceptable standard of health so as not to impose undue costs or demands on NZ's public health system," Foley further said.

Meanwhile, the counsel representing the family added that "We have also been instructed to file an appeal on humanitarian grounds. If both of those options fail, then the family's only hope is intervention by the Minister of Immigration."

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