Baby with Down syndrome gets temporary visa to stay in New Zealand with Thai chief parents

Children with Down syndrome are at higher risk of complications and death from Covid-19. Photo / 123rf

A baby girl with Down syndrome has been allowed to stay after New Zealand reversed her deportation to Covid-stricken Thailand, a return ‘equivalent to a death sentence’, her doctor has said.

Born to Thai chefs in New Zealand, the 2-year-old girl’s visa application was rejected in May 2021 on health grounds that she would be a burden on the country’s health services.

Her family appealed and the Immigration and Protection Court granted it in February, convinced that Thailand’s Covid-19 crisis made it too difficult to deport the little girl.

“Yes [her] appeal fails, she should return within 28 days to a country that is still in the throes of a pandemic, and a medical and hospital care system that is beyond its capacity,” the recently released court ruling said.

Research has shown that people with Down syndrome are more likely to become seriously ill with Covid-19 and 10 times more likely to die compared to the general population.

The baby girl was born in 2019 to parents living and working in New Zealand on Essential Skills work visas. Both are excellent and highly regarded chefs whose skills are rare here, according to their employers.

She was not eligible for citizenship by birth because to be eligible, a child born in New Zealand after January 1, 2006 must have at least one parent who is a citizen or permanent resident.

She has had several complications associated with Down syndrome since birth. In 2020, she had open heart surgery to repair an interatrioventricular septal defect (holes between the left and right chambers of the heart), continues to need a feeding tube, has an eye condition and problems of intellectual development.

Immigration New Zealand said she did not have an acceptable level of health for the terms of her visa.

“The applicant is likely to require significantly more care (including family care) than that required for other children of the same age, as well as high-cost specialist medical care and monitoring,” INZ said. in his medical assessment report.

His doctors disagreed. Her GP said she was in good health and was not eligible for special education services until she was 5 years old anyway. Her heart surgeon and eye specialist said she did not need any specialist medical procedures or routine care at this time, and all three agreed that she was unlikely to be a financial burden on him. New Zealand Health Services for the next three years, the duration of his visa. application.

But sending the toddler back to Thailand at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic would be “a death sentence”, said his GP, Dr M Mikaere. Her heart condition put her at high risk for Covid-19, she was not eligible for vaccination at her age and would struggle to get needed heart care in Thailand.

Deportation would also force the family to split up, her immigration adviser Mark Helsby said. One parent was to return to Thailand with her while the other remained to work in New Zealand. Both leaders had elderly relatives in Thailand who were ill and unable to work due to disability, and relied on remittances from the couple.

Thailand’s tourism and hospitality industry has been rocked by unprecedented business closures and job losses due to Covid-19, and the family’s home province of Hakhon Ratchasima (Korat) has been l one of the hardest hit by Covid-19 restrictions. The chiefs’ chances of finding suitable work there at the time were “practically hopeless”, Helsby said.

In her ruling, Tribunal member Sharelle Aitchison said it would be unfair or unduly harsh for the child to be deported from New Zealand at this time and granted her a 12-month visa extension, the maximum that the Tribunal was able to award.

“This is to give him the opportunity to stay with his parents in New Zealand in the hope that the Covid-19 crisis in Thailand will be more contained by the end of 2022. Over the next 12 months, his parents will have to make decisions about her and their own future but, in the meantime, she can stay with them,” her decision said.

The child could contract Covid-19 here and the cost of any necessary medical treatment was not known, Aitchison said, but extending his stay for a year was not against the public interest.

“Fundamentally though, there is a positive public interest in the compassionate treatment of a child whose health is at risk amid the Covid-19 pandemic. There is also a positive public interest in maintaining family unity for children. visas for as long as possible,” she said.

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