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Sri Lankan family facing deportation due to MS diagnosis

After eight years in New Zealand, a Queenstown family might be forced to move back to Sri Lanka.

The distraught family consists of mum Danesha, dad Sam and their three sons aged eight, 10 and 11. They consider New Zealand home and worry about their children if they are deported.

In 2014 Danesha injured her back while at work, and a year later was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Unable to work, her skilled worker visa was revoked. Four and a half years ago the family applied for permanent residency, but their progress was halted when Danesha was injured. They were been told her illness will impose significant costs on New Zealand's health services.

Danesha worked as a chef at Lone Star, and Sam is a taxi driver.

"I look after my wife, I'm not asking anyone to help for my family," says Sam. "I look after the kids, I pay school bills at the right time, everything at the right time. But finally they declined our application and they said to go back to country."

Now the family is facing deportation back to Sri Lanka in less than a week - a prospect that fills both parents with dread.

"We can't go back," says Danesha. "We like this country and we like this community, they are all nice people, they are caring for us."

Sam fears for his sons if they are forced to give up their well-established Kiwi lives.

"They need a good future, they're good bright boys," he says.

The family's last hope is to appeal to the Immigration Minister on humanitarian grounds. Newly-appointed Clutha-Southland MP, Hamish Walker, said in a statement to the Project that he feels for the family's stressful situation, and that he thinks there should be flexibility in the law when it comes to exceptional circumstances. He says he wants to understand Danesha's family's circumstances and provide whatever support is appropriate.

Former United Future leader Peter Dunne, appearing as a guest host on The Project, says Mr Walker has a responsibility as the family's local MP. He says Mr Walker should bring the family's case to Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway and try to have their deportation put on hold while the case is reviewed.

"There seems to have been a series of errors along the way," Mr Dunne says. "I don't think the family should ever have been put in this position."