Residency visa fears: Migrant mum, kids 'desperate' after sudden death of husband

Author
Lincoln Tan, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sun, 14 Mar 2021, 1:57PM
Widow Buddhini Sooriyaarachchi and her two children, Vinuga, 8, and Vinuth, 7 months, are at a loss about what to do after her husband Jeevaka Shayamal died suddenly aged 39. Photo / Alex Burton
Widow Buddhini Sooriyaarachchi and her two children, Vinuga, 8, and Vinuth, 7 months, are at a loss about what to do after her husband Jeevaka Shayamal died suddenly aged 39. Photo / Alex Burton

Residency visa fears: Migrant mum, kids 'desperate' after sudden death of husband

Author
Lincoln Tan, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sun, 14 Mar 2021, 1:57PM

A Sri Lankan mother of two young children living in West Auckland is at a complete loss about what to do after her husband died suddenly just months before meeting their requirement for New Zealand residency.

Buddhini Sooriyaarachchi, 33, has lived in Auckland for over five years with her husband. They have two children, Vinuga, 9 and Vinudth, 7 months.

But her world crumbled on February 3 when her 39-year-old husband Jeevaka Shayamal, or Jee as he is known, died of a heart attack.

"That night he was helping me put the baby to bed, and after he doing that he told me he was going to the living room couch to check some phone messages, I didn't know that will be the last time I see my husband alive," Buddhini said.

Buddhini Sooriyaarachchi and her late husband Jeevaka Shayamal carrying their older son Vinuga. Photo / Supplied

Buddhini Sooriyaarachchi and her late husband Jeevaka Shayamal carrying their older son Vinuga. Photo / Supplied

It was about 3.30am when Buddhini woke up to go to the toilet, and thought her husband had fallen asleep on the couch when she saw him lying still but with the mobile phone on the floor.

"I wanted to wake up to ask him to go back to our room to sleep, but was shocked when I touched his face and it was ice cold. My mind went blank," she said.

"In my panic, I sprinkled water on his face but nothing happened. He is not even 40 years old, didn't have any sickness, I cannot believe he can just die like that."

Jeevaka came to New Zealand in 2016 and had been working as a spray painter at Wayne Scott Panelbeaters since. Buddhini came a year later from Colombo with their son Vinuga, then aged 4.

They had a work-to-residence visa, and had been on track to making their dream of making New Zealand their permanent home until Jeevaka's sudden death.

"Everything is so good and I was counting my blessings every day, and then suddenly now everything has become so bad," Buddhini said.

"Jee is the sole breadwinner and we don't have savings, and now I have no money to find a new place, get immigration advice or even air tickets if we have to fly home."

The family is living in an accommodation owned by Jeevaka's employer about the workshop where he worked, and have been told they have to move out by April 4 because someone else was moving in.

Jeevaka Shayamal died suddenly on February 3, just months before he and his family would have qualified to apply for a New Zealand residence visa. Photo / Supplied

Their visa to remain in New Zealand is linked to Jeevaka's employment, and will expire in December.

Buddhini said Vinuga, a Year 4 student at Kelston Primary, has been feeling unsettled and insecure since his father's death.

"He is scared to leave me even to go to school because he keeps asking what will happen if I go away too like his dad," she said.

Buddhini says Vinuga excels in karate and has dreams of representing New Zealand at the sport in future. She herself is a qualified chef, and believes she can contribute to the country too if given a chance.

Auckland Sri Lankan community leader Asoka Basnayake visited the family on Friday, and said they were really struggling.

"They have dumped all their savings in order to come here, and they don't really have a plan B. They are in a really desperate state," she said.

The community has set up a fundraising page on crowdfunding platform Givealittle, which has so far raised more than $17,500.

"All the money that they have is what's been raised on Givealittle, and it won't get them very far really," Basnayake said.

She said Buddhini did not qualify for the Government's Covid-19 emergency funding for people on temporary visas, because that meant she had to show proof she was returning to Sri Lanka.

"In her case, she really wants to make New Zealand - where she had their second child - their forever home," Basnayake said.