12-year-old Filipino girl barred from living with her parents in New Zealand due to her autism

new zealand immigration
  • A 12-year-old girl from the Philippines, Arianna Alfonzo, has been denied a visa to New Zealand due to her autism.
  • New Zealand’s immigration policies limit the entry of people with disabilities or illnesses based on an evaluation of “high-cost” medical conditions.
  • Although both of her parents have residency status in New Zealand, Alfonzo has been living with her mother in the Philippines since her father moved to work in New Zealand six years ago.
  • Alfonzo’s application for a visitor visa was denied in 2018.
  • New Zealand Green Party MP Ricardo Menéndez March requested last year that Associate Immigration Minister Phil Twyford intervene on Alfonzo’s behalf; however, the request was denied.

Despite both of her parents having residency status in New Zealand, a 12-year-old girl from the Philippines has been denied entry due to her autism.

Arianna Alfonzo has lived in the Philippines apart from her father while he has worked in New Zealand for the past six years. In 2018, Arianna’s application for a visitor visa was rejected after it was determined that she did not meet “acceptable standards of health.”

New Zealand’s immigration policies state that an individual with a disability or illness is unable to reside in the country if they require health services that cost more than $41,000 over five years. 

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While Arianna’s father works as a construction industry worker in Auckland, the 12-year-old and her mother, Gail Alfonzo, have continued living in the Philippines as they fight to get Arianna accepted into New Zealand.

“It’s been very difficult for us,” Gail told The New Zealand Herald. “She needs both parents.”

Gail also said that she and her husband have spent thousands on consulting specialists and lawyers to help approve Arianna’s visa and prove that they would not be a burden to New Zealand’s economy.

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“We are in our early 40s and we are very sure both of us will contribute [to] the growth and economy of New Zealand,” Gail wrote in a public plea.

Ricardo Menéndez March, a New Zealand Green Party member of parliament, has also advocated for Arianna’s case, describing New Zealand’s immigration policy as “a deeply dehumanizing process which strips [people] of their human rights and makes them plead in the media and to MPs to simply be seen as the whole human beings that we all are.”

March reached out to Associate Immigration Minister Phil Twyford last year to request an intervention; however, Twyford’s office denied the request.

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“I have carefully considered your representations,” Twyford responded. “I advise I am not prepared to intervene in this case.”

In 2014, a woman by the name of Juliana Carvalho was similarly denied entry into New Zealand due to her condition as a parapelgic and having lupus. It took six years for her to be approved for residency after having spent time in New Zealand under a student visa. She described the policy as destroying “people’s lives” and causing “humiliation.”

Carvalho submitted a petition with 35,000 signatures to change the disability immigration policy in 2021; however, the New Zealand government stated that it had no plans to revise the current policy.

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“The current settings are not specifically discriminatory against disabled people, but instead focus on assessing the public health impact an individual will have,” New Zealand’s government stated.

Gail and her husband expressed hope that New Zealand will show compassion and described the nation as a “family country.”

“Arianna is a happy child like any other child in the world, she loves to go to school, meet people and see different places,” Gail wrote in her petition. “Like any other child, Arianna deserves to live with dignity and be treated fairly.”

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Feature Image via @partial_exposure/ Unsplash

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