Details about an apparent MIQ-dodging family are lost in an information black hole between multiple agencies as they play pass the buck.
On Monday, Kiwiblog's David Farrar posted about the story of "a Kiwi family in Australia who were desperate to get home, as there were serious mental health issues due to being stuck in Australia".
Being unable to secure MIQ vouchers, they struck upon the jape of booking a flight from Australia to Fiji, with a stopover in Auckland.
"In Auckland they got the kids to refuse to get back on the plane, as the kids wanted to see the rest of their family in Auckland. It seems that there is some international convention that prohibits forcing children onto a place, so the family was transferred into an MIQ facility in Auckland, which is what they wanted."
Farrar later told the Herald, "A friend called me up to tell me about them. He had lots of details such as the costs of broken flights etc so I regarded it as a true story, not an urban legend."
A Herald query to MBIE's Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) division was referred to Customs.
"Customs is aware that on 12 December 2021 four New Zealand travellers declined to board a connecting flight to Nadi," a spokesperson said.
However, the agency said questions about what steps were taken after the refusal to board would have to be answered by MIQ and the Ministry of Health.
The Herald complained this process was frustratingly circular, given MIQ had put the ball in Customs' court.
A response was then forwarded from joint head of Managed Isolation and Quarantine Chris Bunny, who said: "It is a legal requirement to have a valid MIQ voucher to enter New Zealand. If someone arrives in the country without a valid MIQ voucher, then their case may be referred to NZ Police for enforcement action.
"We would be extremely disappointed by anyone who purposefully ignores the process, especially when there are thousands of New Zealanders, often in difficult circumstances, who want to come home and who follow the rules."
So was the family who refused to board their connecting flight to Nadi referred to the police? And were they put in MIQ in the meantime?
An MIQ spokesman said yesterday evening, "We do not yet fully understand the facts of this situation so are not in a position to advise what further action is appropriate at this stage."
A member of the police comms unit was loathe to put any resource into attempting to confirm police action, given MIQ officials were not clear on whether the matter had been referred to law enforcement.
The Ministry of Health acknowledged Herald questions yesterday but has yet to supply responses.
Meanwhile, the pressure on Kiwis overseas has increased with news that the latest room release has been delayed because of an "unprecedented number of Omicron cases".
Can kids be forced onto a plane? Can MIQ seekers claim asylum?
Farrar wrote on Monday, "It seems that there is some international convention that prohibits forcing children onto a plane."
While Customs has confirmed a family of four refused to board a connecting flight on, a specific convention would not have come into it.
There is no specific international convention that says children cannot be made to board a plane, Auckland University Law School's Professor Mark Henaghan said.
Henaghan added that there are a number of international conventions that broadly promote the best interests of children, but they are only recommendations that do not override local laws.
Professor Nicola Taylor, with Otago University's Faculty of Law, said there was possibly some confusion with the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which applies to breaches of parental custody orders and which in any case has provisions for putting kids on planes to repatriate them, not upholding a right not to board a flight.
Farrar also mooted that an NZ traveler on stopover, without an MIQ voucher, could request asylum, then cancel their asylum request after they had been put into MIQ. "I know it is ridiculous for a NZ citizen to claim asylum against a country they have lived in such as Australia or the UK, but it doesn't matter how ridiculous it is," he wrote.
Henaghan said that was a simplistic take. Immigration officials would require a serious reason to seek asylum. "Otherwise they would turn you around and put you straight back on the plane."