Finding work is the next hurdle for a Sri Lankan family temporarily saved from deportation through the help of the Queenstown community.
Sam Wijerathne, his wife Dinesha Amarasinghe and their three sons were given a reprieve last week allowing them to stay in New Zealand for another year.
The couple met with Clutha-Southland MP Ham-ish Walker, who has been supporting the family, on Monday for the first time since the news came through.
“We’ve won the battle but not the war,” Walker told the family.
He says his next step is to write to the Associate Immigration Minister, Kris Faafoi, and ask him to grant the family residency.
Once they’ve received their 12-month visa docu-ments, Wijerathne plans to go back to taxi driving while Amarasinghe is now looking for part-time work as a chef – between 20 and 30 hours per week.
“It’s vital that Dinesha finds work to give them the best possible chance,” Walker says.
But Amarasinghe fears she won’t be able to find one.
“We just want back to our normal life,” she says.
The pair have been overwhelmed by the out-pouring of support they’ve received in the resort, from well wishes and prayers to shopping vouchers and food.
She says it has all helped her family.
“Food, clothes, money – they [people in the community] are asking if [we have] any food.
“[This is the] first time that I know the human rights on the earth, they not care about our skin colour,” Amarasinghe says.
A ‘givealittle’ page raised $28,351 in two months late last year.
More than 400 people in the Queenstown community marched in November to support the family.
The family, having lived in New Zealand for eight years, were facing deportation after Amarasinghe’s application for a work visa renewal was declined due to health issues.
Their residency application, submitted in 2013, is on hold.