Lincoln Tan is the New Zealand Herald’s diversity, ethnic affairs and immigration senior reporter.

Adopted child too ill to enter NZ, parents told

Kathryn Dyer says the ban on Jendah means the whole family is stranded in Cambodia.
Kathryn Dyer says the ban on Jendah means the whole family is stranded in Cambodia.

A 7-year-old girl has been banned from entering New Zealand with her adopted parents because authorities say she is too sick to live here.

Jendah was abandoned at birth by her mother in Cambodia but has been adopted by Kathryn Dyer and her husband, Grahame, Kiwis who have lived in Cambodia since 2004.

The couple want to come home to visit a critically ill relative - but when they applied for a visitor's visa for Jendah they were rejected because Immigration New Zealand deemed she did not meet its health criteria.

Jendah suffers from a developmental delay disorder and Mrs Dyer claims she was told in a letter from the agency declining Jendah's visitor visa application in 2011 that her learning difficulties and special needs requirement "would cost NZ too much".

Despite having Kiwi parents, Jendah may also not be granted citizenship because the Department of Internal Affairs said it did not recognise her adoption process, carried out under Cambodian law in 2011.

Mrs Dyer, who is based in Cambodia as an aid worker with Asian Outreach New Zealand, said she didn't think it was right for "good health" to be a requirement for adopted children to enter New Zealand.

"As far as I am concerned she is the child of a New Zealander now, and I am quite frustrated and angry actually," Mrs Dyer said.

"In the last year, we've had my father become critically ill and nearly died and my husband's father is in hospice at the moment and probably will die this week.

"So, we would really love to be home.

"She was a little life that needed help, she has no family and no one to care for her," Mrs Dyer said.

"We feel that the best thing for Jendah is to be in a loving, caring family. We give her that."

She said Jendah had a hard start in life, and was raised by a woman in her village who "was very poor and had no milk to give" after being abandoned by her mother.

The Dyers were originally from Paeroa.

The couple, who have two other children aged 11 and 12, lodged a citizenship application for Jendah in June last year, but have not got a response from Internal Affairs. "She is claiming citizenship because we, her parents, are Kiwis," Mrs Dyer said.

"Until she is a Kiwi, with a NZ passport ... she is missing out on her extended family in New Zealand, and so are her older sister and brother."

Mrs Dyer said until they could find a way for Jendah to come to New Zealand, the family remained "stuck" in Cambodia.

Immigration visa services general manager Nicola Hogg said Jendah's health was an issue because her adoption did not meet applicable legal requirements.

Evidence must be provided for an overseas adoption that it had a ruling from a New Zealand court, or the assessment of an immigration officer if there were clear precedents for adoptions from the country concerned.

"A letter was sent to the Dyers asking them to provide further information as Jendah did not appear to meet Immigration NZ's health requirements and her adoption did not appear to meet the requirements outlined," Ms Hogg said.

"No further information was received, and the application was subsequently declined in February last year."

Ms Hogg said Jendah would be able to travel freely if she was granted New Zealand citizenship.

However, the Department of Internal Affairs yesterday said it considered Cambodian adoptions before January 1 last year did not meet the requirements of the Citizenship Act.

"Where a person has adopted a child who cannot be registered as a citizen by descent, their options are to go to the Ombudsman, seek a declaration in the High Court, seek to adopt the child in the New Zealand Family Court or apply for a grant of citizenship," said department spokesman Michael Mead.

- NZ Herald

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