Immigration New Zealand is urging sick overstayers and those unlawfully in the country to get tested for Covid-19 with the assurance they won't be targeted for deportation.
Covid-19 testing and care is available to everyone in New Zealand who needs it regardless of their immigration status.
The Herald is aware of one Malaysian overstayer and is told of several others in South Auckland who have been sick for weeks, but are too scared to seek help because of deportation fears.
"People unlawfully in New Zealand should seek medical advice if they are unwell," an INZ spokeswoman said.
"Their treatment will be in complete confidence and their information will not be passed on to other agencies."
The spokeswoman said it is imperative that anyone who has symptoms of Covid-19 contacts Healthline on 0800 358 5453 or their doctor immediately.
"An individual's immigration status will not impact on their ability to receive Covid-19 related health care," she added.
An estimate in 2017 put the number of overstayers in New Zealand at around 11,000.
A friend of a Malaysian overstayer said his friend has been suffering from severe cough and cold for the past two weeks.
"He just tries to self medicate and use Google to find out more about his symptoms," said the friend, who did not want to be named.
The overstayer was reluctant to seek medical help even from a GP, his friend said.
"He is worried because he thinks that with Covid-19, all information will be passed on to central government and that could result with his deportation."
Despite being sick, the man said his overstayer friend feels safer in New Zealand than in Malaysia, where there are 9235 Covid-19 cases to date.
The Herald has also been told of several overstayers in South Auckland who have also been sick for weeks, but are afraid to seek medical attention or testing because of their immigration status.
Immigration adviser Tuariki Delamere said it was imperative that these people are made to feel safe to get tested.
"If they turn out to be positive and they don't get tested then the s**t hits the fan as we have seen in the past week," Delamere said.
"The Government should guarantee that they will not in any way be served a deportation liability notice or deportation order, or otherwise have their immigration status adversely affected if they present themselves for Covid-19 testing."
He said deporting people should not be seen as more important that the lives of New Zealanders.
"It would be a criminal offence for public health officials to share any information about any people they test, including with INZ," Delamere said.
"That, in my opinion, would also apply to people in quarantine or managed isolation."
• For advice about where to go for your test, call your local doctor or Healthline on 0800 358 5453.
• Visit the ARPHS website of a full list of testing locations in Auckland.