Under the pump: Overstaying Turkish cook Ramazan Atagan

A hard-working Queenstown-based Turkish cook may be forced to leave New Zealand, through no fault of his own.

Ramazan Atagan, 35, who’s worked for Turkish Kebabs for five years, was refused an essential skills work visa by Immigration NZ because his Auckland-based lawyer got seriously ill and didn’t reply to its request, in July, for more information on his client.

Atagan didn’t know that was the case till two months ago, when Immigration NZ called to tell him he’d been an overstayer since August 21.

He then asked it to reconsider his case, through another lawyer.

Immigration NZ, however, turned him down again, apparently because it didn’t have evidence his original lawyer had been sick.

Along with a friend, Nurkhanim Orujova, Atagan then flew to Auckland to look, in vain, for the lawyer.

But that lawyer, however, subsequently advised Immigration NZ that “due to health reasons I was not able to respond to Immigration NZ’s further information request for Ramazan”.

“I am still off work and receiving treatment.”

Local MP Hamish Walker last week wrote to Associate Minister of Immigration Poto
Williams, requesting her “urgent intervention” to grant Atagan a work visa due to “special and compelling circumstances”.

He told Williams the kebab business is “struggling due to staff shortages and has continuously advertised for Mr Atagan’s role without success — there are simply no NZers applying”.

Walker tells Mountain Scene: “This is a horrible situation for anyone to be in.

“He did everything right, he followed the law, yet through no fault of his own he may need to leave the country.

“This couldn’t happen at a worse time of year.

“I am doing my best to assist him.”

Local mayor Jim Boult has also provided assistance, after Orujova last week met with his executive assistant.

Orujova says Atagan’s stand-down has been very stressful for his boss, Osman Tekinkaya, who owns takeaway outlets in both The Mall and O’Connell’s Shopping Centre.

“It is very tough for the other employees because they have to take Ramazan’s duties — they have to work longer and harder.”

The stress had already caused one staff member to resign.

To make matters worse, Tekinkaya’s wife is pregnant with their third child and is having some health issues, she says.

“Now she has to come to the shop and work — it’s really, really hard for her to continue, but she’s got no other choice.”

Orujova says they’ve now engaged a third lawyer to again ask Immigration NZ to reconsider Atagan’s application.

Asked for comment, Immigration NZ border and visa operations general manager Nicola Hogg says: “As a request for ministerial intervention has been received, Immigration NZ is
unable to comment on this case.”