Published July 29, 2013
A 50-year-old South African man may be kicked out of New Zealand for being obese.
New Zealand immigration officials say Albert Buitenhuis—who is 5-foot, 8-inches and weighs about 286 pounds -- was rejected because his obesity puts him at “significant risk” for health problems, including hypertension, heart disease, sleep apnea, and diabetes, according to a Sky News report.
Buitenhuis has a recorded body mass index of 40, which makes him medically obese.
The concern is that Buitenhuis might tax the country’s healthcare system and rack up large taxpayer bills for care. The officials say he no longer has an “acceptable standard of health.”
"It is important that all migrants have an acceptable standard of health to minimize costs and demands on New Zealand's health services," said the spokesman.
Buitenhuis says he agrees with the policy but believes he should be permitted to stay in the country. He told New Zealand’s 3 News that migrants should not over burden the system, but said that the policy was not mentioned to him when he first arrived in the country.
The chef and his wife, Marthie Buitenhuis, moved from South Africa six years ago, when he weighed 66 pounds more than he does now. The two worked as a chef and waitress at a restaurant in Christchurch. Their boss, Don Whyte, told 3 News they had been “great employees.”
The couple have had their visas renewed several times, but ran into the roadblock when officials considered their application for permanent residency.
"Six years down the line, it's not fair to me," Buitenhuis told New Zealand television. "We sold everything to come here. It wasn't just done willy-nilly."
Marthie Buitenhuis says her husband has committed no crime except "being a foodie", and that his weight hasn’t stopped him from working more than 40 hours a week.
Since moving to New Zealand, Buitenhuis says he hasn’t had any expensive medical care but admits he will eventually need a knee operation.
Both he and his wife are unable to work without visas and are receiving help from family and friends while they appeal to immigration officials. A decision will be made in the case in two weeks.