Fat chef faces deportation from New Zealand

31 July 2013


Albert Buitenhuis, a South African chef, faces deportation from New Zealand because he is too fat. Mr Buitenhuis, 50, is five feet eight inches tall (173cm) and weighs 286 pounds ( 20 stone 6 pounds, 130kg) and has lived in New Zealand for six years.

Mr Buitenhuis had worked in New Zealand for six years with an Essential Skills work visa. He then applied to Immigration New Zealand for a resident visa but was refused in May 2013 because his weight means that there is a significant risk that he would become a heavy burden on the New Zealand health system.

A manager at the New Zealand immigration service, Michael Carley, told New Zealand's 3 News, 'It is important that all migrants have an acceptable standard of health to minimize the costs and demands on New Zealand's health services.

Couple were never informed that weight would be a problem

Mr Buitenhuis's wife, Marthie, told Australian broadcaster ABC that the couple have been in New Zealand for six years. She said that no one had ever told her husband that his weight might cause the failure of a visa application, even though he used to weigh significantly more. He has, in fact, lost 66 pounds (four stone ten pounds, twenty kilograms) since 2007.

Immigration New Zealand said that the reason that Mr Buitenhuis was not informed of the possibility that his weight might cause the failure of his application was that his recent application was for a residence visa. The health requirements for a resident visa are different from those for a work visa.

Michael Carley added that it was not just Mr Buitenhuis's weight that led to the failure of his application. He said that medical tests show that Mr Buitenhuis's weight puts him at risk of diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, cancer and joint failure. He added that the South African also has an enlarged, fatty liver and a bad knee and all these issues would have been considered by officers deciding the application.

Unfair that he was never informed

Mr Buitenhuis says that he understands the rationale for the policy but agrees with his wife that it is unfair that he was never informed that his weight might have an impact on his resident visa application.

He says that he and his wife have now sold all their property in South Africa and have nothing to return to in that country. His sister lives in New Zealand. In addition, since his visa application was refused, he has been barred from working and so is now penniless and cannot afford to return to his native country. The couple have appealed against the decision.

Immigration New Zealand has agreed not to deport Mr Buitenhuis until his appeal has been heard.

Sanwar Ali of workpermit.com said 'if you are thinking of emigrating, or applying for permanent resident status in a country, you should be aware that poor health may affect your chances of success'.

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