Family in limbo due to ablest health requirements hands over petition

Latinx family of four stand smiling outdoors in beachwear by a lake

Migrants Against the Acceptable Standard of Health Aotearoa

5 May, for immediate release 

Yesterday, a Christchurch family from Chile who have been battling immigration for almost 7 years so their daughter Ignacia who has a learning disability can stay in the country handed over a 3350 signature-strong petition to Green MP Ricardo Menéndez March.

Under ableist Acceptable Standard of Health requirements, immigration New Zealand deems Ignacia a cost to education services, failing to recognise her strengths and human rights. The petition urges Associate Minister of Immigration Hon. Phil Twyford to grant Ignacia an exemption to the health requirements.

“New Zealand has given me the best, beautiful moments in my life – good job, good friends and dignity. We are safe here. But for seven years I struggle with immigration every single day,” Ignacia’s mother Carolina Vasquez said at the petition handover, streamed live on facebook.

During their prolonged ordeal, Ignacia and brother Fernando were forced to return to Chile for three years, enduring an abusive living situation.

The family of four are together in Aotearoa now, with Ignacia on an interim student visa, but Ignacia’s residency is still not assured and without ministerial intervention, getting it may again be a protracted ordeal.

Multiple visa applications for Ignacia–most of them rejected–along with lawyers fees and periods of being unable to work have been both financially and emotionally draining for the family.

“The New Zealand journey has been crazy,” Ignacia’s brother Fernando said. “A roller coaster, so close to getting what we want but then we get an Immigration NZ email and we are destroyed again. It’s so hard for our mental health.” 

Ross Lindsay, a family friend who has driven Ignacia to and from school for 18 months, calls the ASH requirements “archaic, discriminatory and totally unacceptable”.

“Our Prime Minister made headlines across the world urging us all to be compassionate and kind,” he noted. “However, these qualities are sadly lacking in our department of immigration, and frankly, as a Kiwi, it’s embarrassing.”

“How can anyone suggest that this beautiful young woman Ignacia would bring anything but kindness and compassion to all who know her?”

Aisling Smyth, a migrant with MS who also had to fight to stay in the country says disabled migrants shouldn’t be forced to prove their worth.

“I’ve spent thousands trying to prove my worth, that I’m not a burden. I have every right to be here just as my non-disabled colleague or non-disabled friend”

Smyth, who is also a spokesperson for Migrants Against ASH Aotearoa says the ASH policy needs to be scrapped, in order to take a strengths-based approach and align with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the New Zealand Bill of Rights. 

Screenshot from the livestream of #LetIgnaciaStayNZ petition handover. On the top screen from the left, Vasquez family (Fernando, Cristian, Ignacia, and Carolina),  Áine Maeve Kelly-Costello, Ricardo Menendez March, on the bottom screen from the left, Ross, Ash and Juliana Carvalho.
Petition hand-over on Zoom. Photo / Juliana Carvalho

Green MP Ricardo Menéndez march received the petition.

“It’s really clear to us that this petition is about migrants being granted the same human rights the rest of the population are afforded,” he said.

Menéndez March has recently drafted a bill to address this by reinstating human rights access for migrants and removing the legal provision under which the differential treatment in the ASH requirements can exist.

After disabled migrant Juliana Carvalho petitioned Parliament for policy change last year, the Education and Workforce Select Committee also recommended a strengths-based approach to migration settings be taken–a recommendation which the Government has thus far ignored.

“The onus is now on the Minister to hear the voices from the ground and from his own colleagues actually to change the Acceptable Standards of Health policy to meet the aspirations of disabled people and the Government’s own Office for Disability Issues,” Menéndez March said.


About Migrants Against ASH Aotearoa:

Migrants Against the Acceptable Standard of Health is a grassroots migrant collective campaigning to end disability and health discrimination in Aotearoa New Zealand’s immigration system by getting rid of the Acceptable Standard of Health requirements.

We are led by migrants, refugees and families directly affected by ASH discrimination.

Contact: Aisling Smyth, 0210516381 

Juliana Carvalho: 0210516381

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