'Bordering on eugenics' - Greens want to see immigration policy scrapped

Kristin Hall
Source: 1News

The Green Party wants to see a key part of our immigration policy scrapped as migrants with disabilities or illnesses struggle to stay in the country.

Currently people applying to live and work or visit New Zealand have to be of an "acceptable standard of health".

People with a condition likely to cost the health or special education system more than $41,000 won't be granted a visa.

That’s affecting people like Queenstown office manager Aisling Smyth.

She’s been living and working in New Zealand for nearly eight years, but her recent application for an essential skills visa was declined because Smyth has mild multiple sclerosis.

In letters to Immigration New Zealand Smyth’s neurologist says the 34-year-old’s prognosis is “excellent” and that her MS is under “extremely good control”.

Her employers at Queenstown Panelbeaters said Smyth is an “instrumental” part of the business.

“In her time here, managing our office, we have not had any concerns regarding Aisling’s health. It does not affect her performance, attendance, or attitude towards tackling anything head on with positivity.

“It would prove extremely difficult to find someone with Aisling’s experience and skills, especially here in Queenstown, with it being so transient,” they said.

INZ’s decision on Smyth’s application said her medication, Tecfidera is expensive – around $2000 a month, and there could be additional costs like specialists’ reviews and MRI scans, meaning Smyth does not meet an ‘acceptable standard of health’.

“I put another application in but it's most likely going to be declined on the same grounds and then I'll have to lodge an appeal to fight deportation,” Smyth says.

She said the decision didn’t appear to factor in the contributions she’s made as a taxpayer and will continue to make.

“It's taken a massive toll on my mental health because it's made me feel totally worthless…immigration NZ are looking at me as a cost, they're not looking at me for what I bring to the community.”

It’s a struggle too for those wanting to visit.

Lorigail and Allan Alfonzo are permanent New Zealand residents, but Lorigail lives in the Philippines with their 12-year-old daughter Arianna.

Their last application to bring Arianna to New Zealand for just a month-long visit was declined because of her autism.

The 2018 decision by INZ said Arianna was “likely to impose significant health costs or demands on New Zealand’s health services”.

Lorigail Alfonzo says she’s making another application but covid restrictions at the border could make things even harder.

“My daughter only has autism, she doesn't have any illness or medication, not at all.

"She's very healthy.

“Maybe one day New Zealand will open the door to all disabled people because they are not burdens, they are being loved,” she says.

Figures from Immigration New Zealand show that in the last five years nearly 446 people have been denied a residence visa for not having an acceptable standard of health.

One hundred and forty-one essential skills workers have been denied for the same reason.

Greens Immigration spokesperson Ricardo Menéndez March says INZ’s health requirements policy “borders on eugenics”.

“We think that it's incredibly dehumanizing. The Greens would like the health requirements to be removed completely and to assess people based on the contributions they're making, whether it’s through employment, their connections to family instead of just whether we think they're healthy enough.”

Disabled Persons’ Assembly chief executive Prudence Walker says the policy is “inherently ableist”.

“New Zealand's ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, but our immigration policy would appear to breach disabled people’s rights to freedom of movement.

"We should absolutely be looking at what value people are bringing.”