Charlotte Bellis' lawyer says Covid-19 Minister Chris Hipkins breached the Kiwi journalist's privacy by sharing personal details in a statement yesterday and they are considering legal options.
Bellis is pregnant and in Afghanistan, where she and her Belgian partner have been fighting for the right to return to New Zealand for the birth through an emergency MIQ spot.
On Monday, Hipkins issued a statement disputing many of Bellis' claims around her applications.
While many details had been discussed publicly in Bellis' open letter, Hipkins also included details Bellis had not shared, including when the minister believed she had arrived in Afghanistan and that she had been offered consular assistance.
Bellis says she never gave consent for this information to be shared, and that it is also untrue.
The minister has been approached for comment.
Bellis told the Herald that even if she had been given consular assistance she was unsure how they could help her situation.
In his statement, Hipkins said: "I want to be clear, there is a place in MIQ for people with special circumstances like Ms Bellis."
The issue was Bellis and her partner planned to travel to New Zealand after a 14-day window as required under the emergency criteria, he said.
Officials had told her to reapply with a shorter travel timeframe and to apply under another category that meant there was serious risk to their safety in Afghanistan, Hipkins said.
Her lawyer Tudor Clee told the Herald that Hipkins had breached Bellis' privacy by sharing those details that she had not consented to being made public, and they were considering legal options.
But also his other statements were not true, he said.
Clee, who is representing Bellis pro-bono and has done so for dozens of others in similar situations, said there were exemptions allowed to the 14-day criteria in "special circumstances", which had also been admitted by head of MIQ Chris Bunny.
This "special circumstances" exception had also been confirmed in three separate court cases, Clee said.
Bellis, who is 25 weeks' pregnant, had previously stated due to there being limited flights out of Kabul they needed more time than 14 days to plan their return.
"Hipkins' opening line stated she had 'special circumstances'," Clee said.
"So given the criteria is met through the eyes of the minister it seems odd MBIE is so reluctant to deal with the application in its current form."
Bellis has said the category around safety did not apply as they had been assured safety by the Taliban.
The main reason for their return continued to be access to "time-critical medical treatment" not available where they were presently, regarding Afghanistan's poor level of maternity services.
Clee said he also disputed Hipkins' statement there was a place "for people like her" given the low success rate for pregnant applicants.
From June 1 last year to today there were 219 emergency allocation applications which involved a pregnancy, with 29 approved. Of those, 65 were declined and seven were still in process (including that of Bellis).
There were 118 cancelled by the applicants or they were not processed due to being incomplete applications.
Meanwhile, From October 30, 2020, to January 23, 2022, MIQ processed 8863 completed emergency allocation applications and approved 5396.
National Party leader Christopher Luxon said Bellis' case was a "no-brainer" and represented thousands of others like her.
National Covid-19 spokesman Chris Bishop said Hipkins should apologise to Bellis.
"It looks like Chris Hipkins has basically breached her privacy. He is gaslighting her, saying it is all her fault. It is unacceptable. And is not behaviour becoming of a minister."
Act Party leader David Seymour also called on the minister to apologise.
"It's entirely unacceptable for a minister of the Crown to release private details without permission, especially when they're wrong, just to save face. Ministers have previously been sued for releasing private details."
In 2009 then-social development minister Paula Bennett came under fire after providing private beneficiary details to the Herald after they criticised her decision to scale back the Training Incentive Allowance. Bennett refused to apologise.
Acting Privacy Commissioner Liz MacPherson said Bellis was welcome to make a complaint but the office would not comment specifically on her situation.
Generally though, the fact an individual has spoken to the media about their situation "does not, in itself, provide authorisation for the Minister to disclose additional personal information about the individual", she said.
"A minister should only release personal information that the individual has not already made public if the individual has clearly authorised such disclosure, or if an exception to information privacy principle 11 applies," she said.
"This principle relates to the disclosure of personal information and includes some exceptions such as where disclosure without authorisation is necessary to prevent a serious threat to individual or public health and safety."
Both Act and National are calling for the Government to end MIQ and introduce home isolation for fully vaccinated New Zealanders with negative tests.
The Government has said it plans to introduce a phased reopening from the end of February.