After battling deportation because of concerns about his health. Albert Buitenhuis will live to fight another 23-months in Christchurch, New Zealand after receiving a visa reprieve.
A South African chef facing deportation from New Zealand because of his weight has been granted a new visa.
Albert Buitenhuis and his wife Marthie have lived in Christchurch since 2007 but faced deportation because of concerns about his health. Along with a pre-existing knee condition, Buitenhuis’ obesity was deemed to be too much of a potential strain on the country’s health system.
Since their visas were declined in May on the grounds Albert did not have “an acceptable standard of health”, the couple have battled to stay in New Zealand. They were evicted from their home, sold almost all their possessions to survive and had almost given up hope.
But their prayers were answered after associate immigration minister Nikki Kaye stepped in to grant the couple 23-month work visas. Buitenhuis said the decision was ”bittersweet”.
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”Of course, we are pleased and relieved that we are now able to stay. It’s great, but at the same time we would rather rewind so that none of this took place. It has been a really hard time for both of us.”
The pair were set to move back to Christchurch on Thursday to resume their jobs at the Cashmere Club, ”We are really starting from scratch again. We have lost thousands of dollars fighting this and we don’t know where we will live because our home is gone. I am glad the fight is over but I am still afraid of what lies ahead.”
In a letter obtained by The Press, Kaye said ”after careful consideration” she had decided to grant the visas. She said the main reason Buitenhuis’ application was declined was due to the osteoarthritis in his knee. The work visas would not make the couple eligible for public-funded health care, so Buitenhuis will have to pay for the cost of his knee replacement. In New Zealand, the operation costs about $20,000, but Buitenhuis was looking at travelling to India and having it done for half the cost.
”It’s still $11,000 so it’s a lot of money. I am not sure how we will raise that amount when we have used all our savings on visa applications but we will.”
Buitenhuis, who currently weighs 130kg has already shed 35kg from his 1.78m frame since arriving in the country and aims to lose another 25kg over the next few months.
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