Pregnant Tourist Told To Leave Country

Pregnant tourist told to leave country
Jurga Skiauteris has been told to leave the country despite a doctor's plea.

By Lincoln Tan
New Zealand Herald
4:00AM Tuesday Jun 09, 2009

Immigration New Zealand has ordered a heavily pregnant Lithuanian tourist to leave the country – despite a doctor's warning that she must be near medical help at all times and that travel could harm her and her child.

Supporting 29-year-old Jurga Skiauteris's application to stay, North Shore Hospital antenatal consultant doctor Alex Ivancevic wrote: “Her pregnancy is a high risk … She is strongly advised bed rest and avoidance of any activity that might potentially provoke pre-term labour.”

But Immigration NZ will not extend Mrs Skiauteris's three-month visitor's permit because she is “not of an acceptable standard of health” and will require high-cost pharmaceuticals and hospital care during her stay in New Zealand.

Mrs Skiauteris was six weeks pregnant when she arrived in January with her husband Robertas, 34, and their 6-year-old son, Leonardo. She has been mostly bed-ridden since complications were found in her pregnancy during a routine check in early March.

The family became overstayers when their permits expired on April 2, and Immigration has rejected two appeals from Mr Skiauteris.

“The unexpected change in health conditions means any travel would put my partner and baby in danger,” he said in one appeal.

“Doctors at North Shore Hospital say my partner's health would not allow us to travel in any way because it could lead to premature labour and, as a consequence, death of a newborn baby.”

But Immigration NZ said in a letter to Mr Skiauteris: “As you no longer hold a valid permit, you must arrange to leave New Zealand immediately. If you do not leave, Immigration NZ may take further action against you.”

Said Mrs Skiauteris: “I know having a baby is supposed to be a happy event, and I can cope with the difficult pregnancy – but Immigration New Zealand is turning it into a nightmare.”

The family have insurance cover for medical expenses and hospitalisation for up to 250,000 ($556,000), which covered pregnancy complications up to the 36th week.

Mr Skiauteris, an advertising director, had also told Immigration NZ they had access to enough money to pay for the rest of his wife's maternity care costs.

“It's really frustrating, because we'd be gone on the next plane back to Lithuania – where we can have the support of family and friends – if I can be certain that nothing will happen to my baby,” he said.

“The last thing we wanted is to break any law or become overstayers – but what can you do when it's a choice of either that or risk the life of your baby and your wife?”

He said they would leave after the birth – the baby is due on July 22 – and he was hoping Immigration NZ would not ban him from visiting his brother in Auckland.

Immigration Minister Jonathan Coleman said yesterday that New Zealand “simply does not have the healthcare resources to offer maternity services to visitors” even if they were prepared to pay.

He said pregnant Korean student Sung Won Kim, who was told to leave New Zealand to have her baby, was on a visitor's permit.

“It is also simply not true that if a woman who is already studying in New Zealand on a student permit becomes pregnant, she is automatically required to leave the country. Each case would have to be considered on its own circumstances.”

The Labour Department, which oversees Immigration NZ, said there were limited provisions for a medical waiver for a person applying for a temporary visa or permit, and two such visas had been issued in the past two weeks.


Related links:
Editorial: Rethink of pregnancy edict needed
Koreans: Let student have baby in NZ
Pregnant? Pack up and go home