A 12-year-old autistic girl from the Philippines has been banned from moving New Zealand with her parents as part of an immigration policy that rejects people with disabilities or illnesses that can bring high cost to the health care system.

Proponents of reform have called the rules “discriminatory” and “comprehensive.”

12-year-old Ariana Alphonse has been forced to stay in the Philippines for the past six years while her father Alan works in Christchurch, where he does carpet laying. Both he and Ariana’s mother, Gail Alphonse, have New Zealand status. But Ariana’s applications to come to New Zealand were rejected.

The case was first reported by the New Zealand Herald, is one of hundreds rejected under New Zealand rules that set a limit of $ 41,000 over five years on an immigrant’s account for the health care system. The criteria exclude people with a number of “expensive” conditions, including physical disabilities, intellectual disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, brain injuries, multiple sclerosis and cancer.

Ariana’s mother, Gail Alphonse, said the family has spent thousands on professionals and lawyers to prove that their family unit will not be a burden to New Zealand. In a public request for support, she wrote that her husband “is a hardworking and trustworthy man, he is a good citizen and obeys the laws of New Zealand. We are already over 40 and we are very confident that we will both make our contribution [to] growth and economy of New Zealand ”.

“Like any other child, Ariana deserves a decent life and fair treatment,” she said. “Ariana deserves a full and happy family.”

New Zealand Green MP Ricardo Menendez March, who supports the Alphonse family, called the system “a deeply dehumanizing process that deprives them of their human rights and forces them to ask the media and MPs to simply see them as human beings.” who we all are. ”

March said he was aware of about 400 residence visas, which were denied because people did not meet health conditions. “In my opinion, New Zealand lags far behind some comparable jurisdictions,” he said.

March said he wrote to Deputy Immigration Minister Phil Twifford asking him to reconsider Alfonso’s case. This request was denied. A spokesman for Twford’s office said he could not comment on individual cases.

The Alphonse family is not the first high-profile case of future immigrants being denied due to disability. Initially, Giuliana Carvalho was denied on similar grounds – she had lupus and paraplegia. Carvalho spent seven years challenging the decision, and said it entailed huge losses.

“Honestly, the emotional loss was worse than paraplegia, in terms of mental health and suffering … [is] a burden that you don’t add to any value – it has a big impact on someone’s life, ”she said. After she started her time in New Zealand on a student visa, it took six years before Carvalho was approved for residency.

“I am a very resourceful person with amazing friends, family, I have support, and for me it was almost unbearable,” said Carvalho. “Now imagine that a child with disabilities builds their identity – what is the effect of this message on children? And what impact do these reports have on all other children with disabilities in this country? ”

In 2021, Carvalho petitioned 35,000 people to change the rules. However, in March this year, the government said it would not revise the current criteria.

“The current environment is not specifically discriminatory against people with disabilities, but focuses on assessing the impact on public health,” the government said in a statement.

“The government appreciates the contribution that people with disabilities make to society and is always ready to take steps to make New Zealand a society without disabilities. However, because this goal refers to the current immigration parameters of the Acceptable Health Standard (ASH), the government considers these parameters appropriate. ”

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