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The 72-year-old has two daughters and three grandchildren in New Zealand. Photo / NZME
An elderly widow has been granted residency to live with her daughters in New Zealand “in keeping with their traditional Indian values”, a tribunal says.
She “imparts her knowledge of a rich Indian culture and tradition” to her grandchildren, and it would be in their best interests for her to stay, the Immigration and Protection Tribunal said in a recent ruling.
The 72-year-old Indian national, who is not named in the tribunal’s decision, came to New Zealand to join her daughters, both citizens, shortly after her husband died in mid-2019.
She was issued successive visitor visas until her last visa expired in March 2022, and her application for another visitor visa was declined.
Immigration authorities said she did not meet the length of stay requirements, and had exceeded the permitted time in New Zealand on a visitor visa.
Her daughters appealed on humanitarian grounds, hoping their mother could live the remaining days of her life with them and their families.
She was an illiterate widow who has never travelled alone, and was fully reliant on her daughters, they said.
It was important they looked after her, in keeping with their Indian cultural values of caring for their elders, the women wrote in their application, sent with many photographs attesting to what the tribunal called their “mutual companionship, care and love”.
The mother and daughters went to a temple together every week, where the woman was a member.
She also shared her Indian cultural values with her three grandchildren, aged 5, 12 and 16.
“The family would suffer significant emotional turmoil should they be forced to separate,” they said.
The elderly woman was living in Punjab with her husband until he died, and no longer had family support in India.
Two of her brothers live in Canada and her only remaining brother in India is elderly and unable to provide for her.
Her daughters were able to help with her living expenses from New Zealand, but she would require ongoing in-person support for her day-to-day needs.
Her GP in New Zealand said it would be “impossible” for her to live in India alone without social support, where she was likely to have a mental breakdown and her health would deteriorate.
If she were deported, she would have to live on her own. She would be particularly vulnerable to exploitation as an elderly and illiterate woman, her family said.
In a ruling dated January 31, tribunal member Sharelle Atchinson said it would be unjust or unduly harsh to deport the elderly woman.
“The tribunal finds that the appellant’s older age, her strong familial nexus to New Zealand, her dependence on her New Zealand-citizen daughters, the best interests of her grandchildren, and the lack of family support in India, when taken cumulatively, amount to exceptional humanitarian circumstances,” Atchinson wrote.
She had an acceptable standard of health as of March 1, 2022, but may present some cost and demand on the New Zealand public health system in the future given her age.
This was, however, balanced by her close dependent relationship with her citizen daughters and their children, her advanced age, and her lack of support in India, the tribunal member said.
“The tribunal finds that a return to India would put the appellant’s physical and mental welfare at significant risk.
“The appellant’s physical and emotional wellbeing is best ensured by her remaining with her New Zealand-citizen daughters in her well-settled family environment in New Zealand,” Atchinson said.