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International News
New Zealand Offers Permanent Residency to HIV-Positive Zimbabwean Immigrants Under Special Policy

August 31, 2006

HIV-positive Zimbabwean immigrants to New Zealand will be offered permanent residency under a special policy provision, New Zealand Health Minister Pete Hodgson announced Wednesday, AFP/Yahoo! News reports. Roughly 1,300 Zimbabweans entered New Zealand under a special immigration category after fleeing the humanitarian crisis in their country, but about 800 have not come forward to seek permanent residency. New Zealand's immigration policy stipulates that people seeking permanent residency in the country must undergo an HIV test and that if they test positive they are denied permanent residency (AFP/Yahoo! News, 8/30). However, a new provision, the Special Zimbabwe Residence Policy, would allow HIV-positive Zimbabweans who came to New Zealand under the special immigration category to receive permanent residency if they meet other criteria, including character and police checks (New Zealand Press Association, 8/30). "The government has become aware ... that some of these 800 people may not be presenting themselves (to) immigration because of a fear that if they fail their HIV tests they will be returned to Zimbabwe," Hodgson said (AFP/Yahoo! News, 8/30). The government estimates that up to 160 of the 800 people who have not sought permanent residence could be HIV-positive. Hodgson said that if 160 HIV-positive people need antiretroviral treatment it would cost as much as $1.9 million annually of the $4.9 billion national health budget but added that such a scenario is unlikely. Immigration Minister David Cunliffe said the new policy aimed to prevent the situation from escalating. "That is by bringing it out into the open and making sure that people get tested and get treated before it spreads," he said. Cunliffe added that it would not be right to deport the Zimbabweans back to their country because of the "awful and oppressive" regime of President Robert Mugabe (New Zealand Press Association, 8/30). The New Zealand First party said the new provision could increase by 10% New Zealand's HIV prevalence (Stanford, NewstalkZB, 8/30). Winston Peters, who is a foreign minister and leader of New Zealand First, said the government should have conducted health checks when the Zimbabweans first entered the country. "These people ... will now be treated for free for the rest of their lives while the taxpayer picks up the cost -- money that should be spent on sick New Zealanders." Zimbabwe has an HIV prevalence of about 20%, and New Zealand has an HIV prevalence of less than 0.1%, according to the New Zealand Press Association (New Zealand Press Association, 8/30).

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