Girl with special education needs allowed to stay in New Zealand

7:07 pm on 22 December 2020

National's List MP for Nelson says the government's decision to allow a 10 year-old girl to remain in New Zealand with her parents is a "no brainer".

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Lesly Jayoma was declined an extension of her student visa early this year after she was diagnosed with a modest special education need requiring support for about four hours per week.

The Jayoma family came to Nelson from the Philippines in 2018 on work visas. Lesly's father Rommel Jayoma works for a specialist aviation company in Nelson and her mother works in aged care.

The family had work permits until the end of 2022.

Nelson MP Nick Smith said the justification for denying the student visa was weak, but requiring a 10-year-old special needs child to leave New Zealand by herself, in the middle of the global Covid pandemic was "inhumane".

He said the family faced having to send their daughter back to family in the Philippines.

"This was an appalling situation where a family that's been in New Zealand for the last two years on work permits, and who did have a student permit for their 10 year-old daughter, but last year was diagnosed with having a special need.

"When Immigration found out about it they said she couldn't stay."

The family, with the support of Nelson Central School sought a reconsideration by the Immigration Service in May but this was declined in September, triggering Dr Smith's intervention.

"She was told in September she'd be deported, and to make things more appalling, effectively telling a 10-year-old special needs child in the middle of a Covid crisis, that she would need to leave the country within 21 days.

"That was quite impossible, and quite appalling.

"This case was a no-brainer. No one in their right mind would say that a child who needs a few hours from a teacher aid should effectively be deported from a country, separating her from both her mum and dad.

"The expense to New Zealand was small when the benefit of the parents continuing to work in New Zealand was significant."

Former minister Nick Smith.

National list MP Dr Nick Smith. Photo: RNZ / Tracy Neal

Dr Smith made urgent private representations to the minister in early September and made the case public when the deportation deadline passed.

He said he was delighted to give the Jayoma family the good news ahead of Christmas.

"I am pleased at this successful outcome and thank Associate Immigration Minister Phil Twyford for his decision.

"I also acknowledge the support of Nelson Central School principal, Pip Wells and other MPs who supported my representations to the Minister."

Dr Smith said Immigration New Zealand needed to review its policies around the way it dealt with children.

"This is not the only case I have dealt with where blunt threatening deportation letters are sent to children of a young age.

"We also need a change of policy with a more compassionate approach taken to people with disabilities and special needs."

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