A Tongan family living in Oamaru are worried if they are deported their 4-year-old daughter will not receive necessary operations on her club foot.
Katea Tangifolau was born with the congenital disorder and has already had two surgeries; one in Tonga and another in 2010 at Dunedin Hospital. Katea, along with her mother, Onna, father, Saia, and siblings have lived in Oamaru for nearly five years under both visitor and working permits.
However, attempts to renew their permits to allow Katea to have her operations and receive good education have been declined.
"We have been declined so many times we have lost count," said Mrs Tangifolau.
"They [the children] have asked if they are bad kids."
Immigration New Zealand general manager of visa services Nicola Hogg said the family are living in New Zealand unlawfully and are encouraged to return to Tonga voluntarily.
The family are worried if they return to Tonga, their daughter's foot will not be treated.
Club foot is when the foot turns inward and downward. It is a congenital condition, which means it is present at birth. It is the most common congenital disorder of the legs and can range from mild and flexible to severe and rigid.
Katea's club foot restricts her from day-to-day activities and she often wakes up crying because of the pain.
"Her teacher has told me that sometimes when she runs, she falls over," said Mrs Tangifolau.
The cost of the surgery in Dunedin amounted to $11,700 and for the second operation to take place, the full amount of the first and a percentage of the second had to be paid.
On the eve of the second surgery, a financial adviser from the Dunedin Hospital contacted the family and said the operation could not go ahead without the payment.
"The doctor [called] us the morning of the surgery asking us where we were," said Mrs Tangifolau.
When Katea was born, Mrs Tangifolau said the team at the Tongan hospital knew nothing about club foot and a cast was not placed on Katea's foot, which would have gradually corrected the foot position.
"If we go back, I'm not sure what's going to happen," said Mrs Tangifolau.
"The happiness in the family is gone. We can tell the kids are frustrated, too."
Mrs Tangifolau said the family were proud to live in Oamaru and the community had been wonderful to them.
A number of local groups and individuals in the community have been organising fundraisers to support the family recently.
Mrs Tangifolau said they have no choice but to return to Tonga in February, however, Katea doesn't want to go back and has told her parents many times that she is going to Fenwick Primary School next year.
But Ms Hogg said the Tangifolau family must leave New Zealand as soon as possible.
"Immigration New Zealand encourages them to depart voluntarily as they would be unable to return to New Zealand for five years if they are deported," she said. The family's voluntary departure does not preclude their return to New Zealand if they are able to obtain the necessary visas.
"Immigration policy allows for citizens of South Pacific countries to be sponsored for specialised medical treatment in New Zealand if such treatment is not available in their home country," she said.
Miss Hogg said the Tangifolau family may wish to explore options under this policy if their daughters need treatment in New Zealand in the future.
Saia Tangifolau came to New Zealand in May 2008 on a visitor's visa. He subsequently applied for and was granted a work permit until August 2009.
Onna Tangifolau and her four children travelled here in December 2008. Mrs Tangifolau and three of the children were granted visitor's permits until August 2009. One child was granted a student permit until August 2009.
In May 2010, Mr Tangifolau requested intervention by the Associate Minister of Immigration. Information was provided at this time about his daughter Katea's club foot.
The family were offered limited-purpose permits to enable Katea to undergo surgery and allow for recovery time. The permits would also have enabled Mr and Mrs Tangifolau to work and their children to attend school. Mr Tangifolau declined the offer of limited-purpose permits and made further representations, which included information about Katea's club foot, in September 2010.
The Associate Minister declined to intervene and in December 2010 advised Mr Tangifolau that, as the family was here unlawfully, it should depart New Zealand or the family was likely to be subject to removal action.
In July 2011 a further request was made to the Associate Minister to grant a one-day visa to allow the family to lodge a humanitarian appeal against deportation with the Immigration Protection Tribunal (IPT). The request was granted and the family's deportation orders were cancelled but the appeal to the IPT was unsuccessful. Source: Immigration New Zealand