Bid to stave off deportation
Couple's desperate plea to ministerGWYNETH HYNDMAN
An Invercargill couple, who bought land intending to build a house to be close to a daughter buried at Eastern Cemetery, fear they could now be deported for overstaying a work visa.
Atleshni Lata Datt Kumar and her husband Ashwin Kumar said yesterday they were struggling to pay the mounting pile of bills draining the savings they brought with them from Fiji four years ago.
Both of their positions have been terminated because Immigration New Zealand has told them they are now unlawfully in the country.
Mr Kumar has been employed at the Alliance Group Lorneville meatworks but the couple's work visas have relied on Mrs Kumar's employment as a senior caregiver at Peacehaven Village rest home in Invercargill.
Management there have referred to her as exemplary, fully committed, and passionate about her work in a sector hard to staff.
She has applied each year to have her work visa renewed and did so again on January 9.
However a letter postmarked February 12 says her visa had this time been declined because the immigration officer was not satisfied there were no New Zealanders available to do the job or who could be readily trained for the position.
An interim visa beginning on January 9 had expired and they were now unlawfully residing in the country, the letter says.
The couple said they wrote to Associate Immigration Minister Nikki Kaye to appeal the decision and were waiting on a reply.
Mrs Kumar said she was shocked her work visa was declined and that they had been given little time to return to Fiji where, she said, "there is nothing there for us".
They had not planned to leave and had borrowed money from a relative to purchase a section in Clifton to build a home on.
Mr Kumar said he would have considered moving to Christchurch or Auckland to go back to working in information technology, but his wife said she wanted to be close to their daughter, who had been stillborn and was buried in Eastern Cemetery.
The couple had not anticipated Mrs Kumar's visa being declined because it had been renewed each year and the need for committed caregivers was increasing.
After Mrs Kumar's visa was declined, Presbyterian Support Southland director of services for older people Julia Russell sent a letter to the Immigration Minister, pleading for the decision to be reversed. It was extremely difficult to recruit high calibre, motivated people in her sector in Southland, the letter says.
When contacted, Ms Russell said "Atte" was missed by staff and residents.
The organisation regularly advertised for staff because of the turnover.
"Atte puts herself out there for training and wants to be the best she can be.
"We're really missing her here," Ms Russell said.
Mrs Kumar said she and her husband were not sleeping at night because of the stress. While some of their belongings were in boxes, they were reluctant to pack further and hoped the Government would intervene.
Yesterday, the office of associate Minister Nikki Kaye said Mrs Kumar's case could not be discussed while it was still being processed.
In an emailed statement to The Southland Times Immigration New Zealand also said they could not comment on Mrs Kumar's case while it was being processed but said no immediate deportation action had been planned.
"However, making a request for ministerial intervention in no way prevents normal immigration procedures from applying. If a person is liable for deportation, any deportation action will not be circumvented simply because they have written to the minister."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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