Immigration NZ made 'serious error' in denying autistic Bangladeshi boy residency, tribunal rules
Immigration New Zealand made a mistake when it denied an autistic six-year-old boy from Bangladesh residency with his family, a tribunal has ruled.
A "serious procedural error" meant the severity of the boy's autism — the reason his application was rejected — may have been overstated, the Immigration and Protection Tribunal found in March.
Documents released today showed that while one medical assessor had deemed the child likely to be a financial burden on New Zealand's education system, a paediatrician and a paediatric neurologist who evaluated his disorder after the ruling said the boy was high functioning with no more "significant health needs" than other children his age.
Tribunal member Sharon Pearson cancelled Immigration NZ's decision to deny the boy a visa as it had failed to take into account the second medical opinion required by law for such cases.
The boy arrived in New Zealand in 2012 on a visitor visa as the dependant of his work visa-holding mother.
He had been receiving Ministry of Education funding to attend a school for children with special needs since 2015. That the boy could have been eligible for this $15,000 per year until he was 21 implied he "was likely to impose significant costs and/or demands on New Zealand's education services," according to Immigration New Zealand.
His application for residency was denied in 2016 due to the medical assessor's opinion that he lacked "an acceptable standard of health" and would therefore require the extra government funding.
The boy's parents appealed the decision armed with medical opinions contesting the boy's prognosis.
A paediatrician's report said the child had in fact been diagnosed with "high functioning autism spectrum disorder" with no evidence of intellectual disability, and that he had shown "encouraging" progress at school.
"It was not anticipated that he would have any significant health needs compared to other children his age," the report read.
A paediatric neurologist noted that "individuals with high functioning autism do progress well and often do not need any medical, neurological, or pharmaceutical input".
The tribunal ruled that Immigration NZ would have to conduct a fresh assessment of the boy's autism — taking into account more than one medical assessor's view — to ensure a "fair and proper process" in determining his eligibility for residency.
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