Obese Immigrant Fights Deportation in New Zealand

Citing the potential burden on its health care system, the country has refused to renew a South African chef's work visa

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An obese man is seen in Bremerhaven, Germany, on Sunday, Aug. 31, 2008.

It is widely understood that your extra roll of belly fat can be a health problem, but now it’s actually getting in the way of where you can live — and not just because you need to widen the doorway.

In May, Albert Buitenhuis, a 50-year-old South African citizen who currently lives in New Zealand, was denied renewal of his work visa because of his weight. Immigration authorities in New Zealand stated that Buitenhuis — who currently weighs 286 pounds — no longer had “an acceptable standard of health and could put heavy demands on the country’s health services.” His increased risk of “diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, obstructive sleep apnea, some cancers, premature joint disease, impaired glucose tolerance and an enlarged fatty liver” was the cause of his visa rejection.

In 2007, Buitenhuis and his wife, Marthie, moved to Christchurch, New Zealand from South Africa. Until now his visa was renewed “with very little problem” and without any mention of Albert’s weight. Six years later, he works as a chef at a local restaurant and is actually slimmer than he was when he arrived. Though still clinically obese, he has lost about 66 pounds since he immigrated.

Because Albert is the principal applicant on the work visa, both he and his wife are facing deportation and have been ordered to stop working immediately. In response to their ineligibility to renew their visas, both Marthie and Albert have appealed.

Marthie stated, “We’ve committed no crime and did nothing wrong other than my husband being a foodie.” The Buitenhuises are hardly the only foodies in New Zealand. According to The Press, the country is currently the third most obese country in the world, behind the United States and Mexico. Let’s hope other overeaters in the country can’t be ejected as easily.