No return for migrants



IMMIGRATION New Zealand doesn’t believe a desperate Queenstown migrant couple, stuck in Bali since March because of Covid-19 border restrictions, meet its humanitarian criteria to let them return.

Mountain Scene last week reported Brits Charlie Grant and Zara Meekins were holidaying there when their flight home was cancelled.

Since then they’ve been increasingly struggling to survive on dwindling funds while their requests to return have been repeatedly spurned by Immigration NZ.

Immigration NZ border & visa operations boss Nicola Hogg, whose reply arrived after last week’s deadline, says “the border is NZ’s best protection in our fight against Covid-19, which is why NZ’s border remains closed to all but NZ citizens and residents”.

“The bar for being granted an exception … is set high to help stop the spread of Covid-19 and protect the health of people already in NZ.”

Hogg notes Grant’s in NZ on an essential skills work visa and Meekins is on a partnership-based work visa.

She acknowledges the couple have made several requests for an exception to the border restrictions under Immigration NZ’s humanitarian criteria, but it’s been determined they don’t meet the “high threshold” for consideration.

Grant, in an email, says: “How can they not justify our case as an humanitarian exemption?

“How much worse could it get before they intervene?

“It feels as if our case is not being read by a human being.

“It seems like a very generic mass reply which is void of emotion, when people are suffering.

“Especially when some of the exemptions that have been made are for far less critical needs, e.g. Avatar film crew, previously-deported people and even people with little to no connection to NZ.”

In response to some suggesting they “go back to England”, Grant says “we sold everything we own in the UK over five years ago to commit to our life in NZ”.

“We’d have nowhere to return to there, we’d end up in a heavily-infected country and it would just put us further away from our home in NZ.”

He says since Scene’s article, “we’ve both had an unbelievable amount of support from kind strangers in Bali and from NZ”.

Outgoing local MP Hamish Walker, who’s pushed the couple’s case, says “if Charlie and Zara don’t meet the humanitarian threshold for this government, I don’t know what does”.