Paraplegic woman facing deportation from New Zealand blames 'a system that discriminates'

Juliana Carvalho.
Juliana Carvalho. Photo credit: Juliana Carvalho/Facebook

A woman facing deportation because she doesn't meet Immigration New Zealand's health requirements has opened up about the discrimination she feels is preventing her from staying in the country. 

Originally from Brazil, Juliana Carvalho walked into the hospital at 19 years old and within two days lost the ability to walk. 

She never faced the realisation she would live in a chair, believing for eight years that physiotherapy would help her regain the use of her legs. 

Doctors eventually diagnosed Carvalho with transverse myelitis caused by Lupus and paraplegia. There are just a few more than 100 cases of her kind. 

Now 38, she has been living in New Zealand for over seven years, travelling back and forth multiple times, with her application for a permanent residency visa declined twice. 

Carvalho and family.
Carvalho and family. Photo credit: Juliana Carvalho/Facebook

Deportation would mean leaving behind her mother and three siblings. 

"Right now I am facing one of the hardest moments of my life," Carvalho told Newshub.

"A system that discriminates can take everything. It can take your job, your health, separate you from your family, and it can destroy your joy to live but I've learned that there is one thing the system can't take away: my hope. Because that's a power within."

When Juliana first lost the feeling in her legs, she remained optimistic. 

"I always believed I'd be okay. I needed to believe it, and that hope would only die when I did. It's what kept me alive," Carvalho says. 

But her will to live shifted when the mother of a young girl using a wheelchair reached out to her. To walk again wasn't important to her anymore. 

"To be a voice for people with disabilities and represent us became my mission," says Carvalho.

As an advocate for people living with disabilities, she published her autobiography In my chair or Yours? in 2010 in Brazil - gaining national recognition for her story. Now, she is launching the book in New Zealand. 

She admits, through her struggle to remain in New Zealand it been hard not to give up. 

"Not because of my condition itself but the way society usually treats those with disabilities," says Carvalho.

She was working at Drake Medox until September when her visa was denied and had to quit.

Carvalho and her mother, Nadmea Carvalho.
Carvalho and her mother, Nadmea Carvalho. Photo credit: Juliana Carvalho/Facebook


Immigration New Zealand's policy states that medical conditions that impose significant costs to New Zealand services will not be granted residency unless you have a medical waiver. 

Carvalho's case is now with the immigration and protection tribunal as she awaits her appeal against deportation on humanitarian grounds. 

Border and Visa Operations acting General Manager Jeannie Melville told Newshub Immigration New Zealand declined her application for residency in August 2018 after consideration which included three medical assessors. 

INZ also looked at whether Carvalho should be granted a medical waiver but declined that because of the "significant costs and demand that Ms Carvalho is likely to place on New Zealand's health service". 

"While INZ acknowledges that Ms Carvalho is independent at present, the ongoing costs involved in maintaining her stable condition were taken into account, together with a number of periods of hospitalisation since she arrived in New Zealand and the real possibility that significant costs will be incurred by the New Zealand taxpayer if her condition does not remain stable, including costs associated with access to disability services which she would be entitled to as a resident." 

INZ acknowledged the Carvalho made a request for a visa on 18 September 2019 which was refusal was communicated to her on December 2 2019. 

The appeal is being currently being assessed by the Ministry of Justice.

Juliana Carvalho will be at Mt Albert War Memorial Hall on Saturday 25 January from 11am - 7pm signing her book. 

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