Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Overstayer pleads for help to pay for medical treatment

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

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John Pulu | Presenter/ Reporter/Director

A Tongan man is reaching out to his community to help pay for his surgery after he had a stroke last year. He is unable to cover the costs anymore because he is an overstayer and cannot afford to pay for his medical bills. As John Pulu reports, an immigration lawyer says this is not an isolated case and there are more in the same situation.

Making a cup of coffee is no longer a simple task for Samuela ‘Onesi

Making a cup of coffee used to be simple for Samuela ‘Onesi, but now it’s no longer a simple task. In October 2022 something happened that changed his life forever.

“I went to work and afterwards I came home, made a meal and lay down, and when I got up to go and pick up my daughter from school, I tried to stand up but I fell down,” ‘Onesi says.

The 50-year-old had a severe stroke and required surgery to remove a blood clot blocking the flow of blood and oxygen to his brain.

“As I was laying there, it felt like I had already passed away. I relied on the doctor after the operation and I told them if I come out alive, thank you and if I am not alive it is God’s wish.”

Samuela wears a headgear to protect his head after having surgery

After the operation he was still unwell and the surgeons had to remove the right side of his skull to relieve the pain. Now he’s wearing headgear to protect his head.

“Two weeks ago, a lady rang from the surgical unit at Auckland hospital and asked for my date of birth and hospital number. I gave it to them and they confirmed it was me and I asked what they wanted and was told I had to pay just over $3,600 in order for them to return my skull, ‘Onesi says.

He and his family are non-residents and have been here since 2012 and while they couldn’t get their residency, they worked and paid tax just to get by but it’s not enough especially with the expensive medical bills.

The family are asking for donations and Tongan barrister ‘Amelia Schaaf says they are not alone. There are others out there who can’t afford to get medical treatment because they are here unlawfully.

“A lot of the people that I know who are overstayers they don’t go and see the doctor so that’s one of the things that I get them to do before if I start doing work for them,” Schaaf says.

Her advice is to fundraise and not be shy to ask for help. It’s some remedy for Samuela who is desperate for any support.

(L to R) Maka Pailate and Samuela

Maka Pailate is part of a community movement who took a petition to parliament in 2020 requesting a pathway for overstayers under compassionate grounds to gain permanent residency in New Zealand.

“If we don’t give them the opportunity set themselves up financially by getting decent jobs, legitimate type job so that they can look after certain parts of their bills this is what’s going to happen, we are going to expect more to come out of this, Pailate says.

A community fund has been set up for Samuela to get his treatment done but, in the meantime, he has a message for the immigration authorities

“Give us an opportunity. If there is a chance we get residency, we will use it wisely to help build the economy”.

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