Why does NZ make it so hard for disabled people to move here?
We need Aotearoa's disability communities to rally behind scrapping eugenic migration rules.
Why does NZ make it so hard for disabled people to move here?Áine Kelly-Costello0:00|0:00
- Migrants are people who move to a different country or who want to do that.
- In Aotearoa New Zealand, we have rules that treat migrants unfairly just because they are sick or disabled. The rules are called the Acceptable Standard of Health.
- These rules mean it's really hard for disabled migrants and our families to work here, study here and to live here.
- I am part of a group called Migrants Against the Acceptable Standard of Health Aotearoa.
- We want to stop these unfair rules.
- We want sick and disabled migrants to be part of our communities.
- Please support us. Like our Facebook page and tell your friends!
As disabled people, our bones already know how rare it is to find places that are truly made for us. It's often the unseen mundane things, like screaming into space as you spend an hour on an inaccessible booking form. Or maybe it's inhaling the aroma from the rubbish bin while entering the accessible entrance around the back.
But sometimes, the discrimination is so in-our-face that we're forced to confront the lingering legacy of colonial, eugenic ideology rejecting our very being. This is the case for almost every disabled person, and family with a disabled person, who dare try get a visa to study, work and live in Aotearoa.
Under rules called the Acceptable Standard of Health (ASH) requirements, immigrants with disabilities and many health conditions are measured against the cost or demand that Immigration New Zealand presumes we'll place on education support funding, and/or on health and disability services. Those decisions about whether we get to live here strip away our human rights. They reduce us to medical diagnoses and numbers.
As disabled people, our bones already know how rare it is to find places that are truly made for us
As anyone who has been through the ordeal of being obliged to prove their humanity and worth to Immigration NZ against their economic productivity standards will tell you, that process is demeaning, expensive, and mentally and physically exhausting. To top it off, it often leaves immigrants and families in limbo for obscene lengths of time - six, seven, eight years.
I'm a member of Migrants Against the Acceptable Standard of Health Aotearoa (MAASHA), a migrant-led collective campaigning to end this ableism and discrimination. We can tell you so many stories of people for whom this selection policy of modern eugenics has upended lives.
There's the Vasquez family, who have been living in Christchurch for eight years, but they can't settle with certainty because they still don't have residency for daughter Ignacia, who has a cognitive disability. Due to this, their son and daughter were unnecessarily exposed to years of domestic violence in their home country of Chile.
There's the Alfonzo family, split between Aotearoa and the Philippines for seven years. Their autistic daughter has been barred from getting a visa because of being seen as a cost to education support.
There's the disabled MAASHA member who was recognised as a refugee. He had no choice but to live in Aotearoa indefinitely, and yet still had to endure the ASH process to gain residency. This delayed his resettlement for almost three years, and forced him to drop out of his studies because they were dependent on his visa conditions. He almost withdrew from lifesaving healthcare treatment due to the fear and stress caused by the ASH requirements.
And there's disabled MAASHA organiser Juliana Carvalho who endured her own seven-year-long battle for New Zealand residency. It involved multiple visa rejections, two appeals to the Immigration and Protection Tribunal, being forced into overstaying to keep fighting, and eventually being granted Ministerial intervention to stay. Juliana's petition to the Government for them to recognise migrant human rights in line with the UN Disability Rights Convention (UNCRPD) was the catalyst for bringing MAASHA into being in late 2021.
We need to make sure the Government can't get away with pigeon-holing and ignoring disabled migrant and refugee rights
Last year, the UN disability experts who monitor the UNCRPD agreed with us that the disability discrimination being caused breached disabled people's rights and needed to stop. The Government is hanging on to the discriminatory status quo regardless.
By this point, MAASHA has petitioned Parliament multiple times, written reports, made international headlines and ensured questions are asked about this ableism in Parliament. But we know changing the mindsets that reduce migrants to economic units is a long-term struggle.
So here's a call-out to disabled folks, tangata whaikaha me whānau hauā, and tagata sa'ilimalo … We ask for your solidarity in advocating to scrap the ableist ASH requirements and respect migrant human rights.
I want to be clear about something. We know that disability and healthcare services here are under-funded, arbitrarily restrictive, and not workable for many NZ residents and citizens for lots of reasons. But please, don't fall into the austerity trap of scapegoating sick and disabled migrants for that. To be honest, few things hurt more than seeing people from our own disability community condone the exclusion and rejection of disabled migrants. Everyone who needs them should have equitable access to disability-related support and healthcare services. We need to lift each other up, not get sucked into making value judgements about each other's worthiness based on migration status.
This holistic lens that centres people rather than dehumanising them is the norm in te ao Māori. Māori internal migration protocols were based on values emphasising reciprocal care, relationships, mutual exchange of protections and resources and love and compassion for newcomers who may be in need of additional support. Advocating for the ASH requirements to be abolished is also decolonisation mahi.
... few things hurt more than seeing people from our own disability community condone the exclusion and rejection of disabled migrants
As Martin Luther King said: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere… Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” This idea that no one is free till we all are is called collective liberation.
We need to make sure the Government can't get away with pigeon-holing and ignoring disabled migrant and refugee rights. When we put out a tweet or Facebook post or email a call to action, share that thing. Tell your mates that you want to see the Acceptable Standard of Health immigration requirements scrapped.
Your unrelenting solidarity adds to our power. Hashtag: #EndASHNow!