New Zealand immigration grants stay of execution for fat chef

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The New Zealand immigration minister has announced that Albert Buitenuis, a South African chef, will be allowed to stay in the country. This reversed an earlier decision that he should be deported because he was too fat and was therefore likely to be a drain on the public health service. He has been granted a 2-year temporary resident visa.

Mr Buitenhuis left South Africa for New Zealand in 2007 and was given an Essential Skills work visa which allowed him to work as a chef. He settled in the city of Christchurch. At this point he weighed 160kg (25 stone). By 2013, he had lost 30 kg (about 5 stone) and now weighs about 20 stone (130kg). Mr Buitenhuis is 5 foot ten (1.78m)

But when he applied for a residence visa in 2013, he was refused on health grounds. It was left that his state of health meant that he was likely to require treatment from New Zealand's public health service.

Important to minimise demands on New Zealand health services

A spokesman for Immigration New Zealand, Michael Carley, said 'It is important that all migrants have an acceptable standard of health to minimize the costs and demands on New Zealand's health services'.

Mr Carley also explained that the reason why Mr Buitenhuis had been able to qualify for an Essential Skills visa in 2007 but had been refused a resident visa in 2013 was that the minimum acceptable level of health required for Essential Skills visas and resident visas are different.

He added that Mr Buitenhuis had an enlarged, fatty liver and a bad knee and said that this might have affected the decision of immigration officials to refuse his application..

Chef had nowhere else to go

Mr Buitenhuis decided to appeal the decision. At the time, he told Australian broadcaster ABC that he wanted to stay in New Zealand because he had nowhere to go having sold his property in South Africa. His only relative, a sister, also lived in New Zealand. He added that he was now penniless having been barred from working since his visa application was refused.

On 9th September 2013, the BBC reported that Mr Buitenhuis's appeal had been successful. Associate immigration minister Nikki Kaye told the BBC that the main reason for the original refusal of Mr Buitenhuis's application was that he had osteoarthritis in his knee which was likely to require treatment which would have imposed costs on the New Zealand taxpayer.

Couple awarded two year extensions

But Ms Kaye said that Mr Buitenhuis and his wife Marthie would be granted two year extensions on their New Zealand visas with the proviso that Mr Buitenhuis would be barred from accessing the public health system during that time.

Mr and Mrs Buitenhuis say that they are pleased with the result but upset that they are now penniless and fear for their futures. Mr Buitenhuis hopes to lose another 25 kilograms (4 stone) over the coming months.

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