A family-of-three have been saved from a Christmas Day deportation after a last minute decision by authorities.
Jeffrey and Marjorie Santos, and their 8-year-old son, were preparing to pack up their life in New Zealand and board a flight to the Philippines tomorrow.
The family, in Cromwell, Otago, were facing deportation after Jeffrey had claimed $1600 worth of food vouchers during Covid-19 lockdown in 2020 that he wasn't eligible for, the Otago Daily Times previously reported.
But today, on Christmas Eve, he was granted a 12-month work visa.
Marjorie had previously told the Herald the family were desperate to stay in New Zealand and avoid the Christmas Day deportation.
"My son said, 'Mum, are we going to celebrate Christmas on the airplane'."
She said her husband's decision to claim the vouchers was because he was desperate.
A Immigration and Protection Tribunal decision said that Jeffrey's income had been halved during lockdown, he was desperate to provide for his family and deeply regretted the offending.
The tribunal had delayed the deportation by three months in light of restrictions on international travel and in the interests of their son.
An Immigration NZ spokesperson said they had allowed Jeffrey and his family to continue working in New Zealand due to Covid and the six flights they have had cancelled since April this year.
"We contacted their employers to let them know they could financially support themselves while awaiting for their flights home."
The family's lawyer Maricel Weischede said today's decision to grant the visa was a great Christmas present to Jeffrey and the family.
"What happened today is a manifestation that compassion and kindness reigns.
"There's no doubt that what Jeffrey did was not acceptable, however the gravity of the punishment of deporting is disproportionate to what he had done."
He was in a desperate situation at the onset of Covid-19 in March/April 2020 and there was no assistance given then to migrant workers, which came later in August that year, she said.
"It was too late."
The situation was a win for all advocates and hardworking migrant workers, she said.
"This is a win for New Zealand showing how compassionate and kind we are."
Green MP Ricardo Menéndez-March was elated to hear the news and said it felt like a "Christmas miracle".
"At the same time, there is also a deep sense of anger that what it took it get an outcome with heaps of public pressure and intervention from a member of parliament and countless people writing to the minister.
He said the Government needed to re-introduce the Emergency Benefit for migrant communities.
"We cannot rely on individual intervention at the highest level to get outcomes for people who were struggling to get by. This should be a call to action for the Government to include our migrant communities in their income support system so that no one has to face the choice of feeding their family and being criminalised for it, or starving," he said
"I hope the Santos family get the Christmas that they rightfully deserve."