A group of New Zealand citizens and permanent residents have written an open letter to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway, saying they want their families to come home.
Since the border closures in March due to the Covid-19 pandemic, temporary visa holders stranded overseas have been unable to return to New Zealand.
This has prompted many campaigns and petitions to urge the Government to provide more information and clarity on when they can come home.
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A group of New Zealand citizens and permanent residents, who are separated from their partners and children, have written an open letter in hopes of getting assistance on their return.
Open letter: 'Kiwi families should be together'
Dear Rt. Hon Jacinda Ardern and Hon Iain Lees-Galloway,
Thank you for the fantastic job you have and are doing for our beautiful country. We are writing this open letter out of desperation and in hope that you are able to support us in this heart-wrenching situation. We are Kiwis in our home country, currently finding ourselves facing life in New Zealand without our families. Our families are stranded around the world, being denied entry into our home, to be part of our bubble. We are New Zealand citizens and New Zealand permanent residents wanting to be reunited with our life partners and children. We are New Zealand's nurses, tradesmen, mental health professionals, scientists, tax advisors, musicians, teachers and civil servants. New Zealand is, and always will be, our home. At the moment we have no idea when we will be reunited with our loved ones. Our lives are on hold.
Since the lock-down began there has been very little clarity or information from Immigration New Zealand. Most of our partners have been told that they will be able to join us 'when the border opens'. This is extremely distressing to hear, as no-one knows when this will be. We understand and support the need for strict border control, however the ongoing situation is causing a huge unnecessary emotional strain on all of us. Our partners happened to be overseas for various reasons when the border closed with little warning. We appreciate that our partners are on the exemptions to the border closure list, but our experience has been very different. We have all applied numerous times, and all of our applications have been declined. We are in stable, genuine long term relationships. On our numerous calls and contact with INZ, we have received very mixed messages and we now feel at a complete loss with how to progress.
Most of us are able and willing to pay for our partners to quarantine, this is the least of our worries. Some of us are having to access medical assistance as we are anxious and completely overwhelmed due to the uncertainty of when we will be able to see the loves of our lives again. To live apart indefinitely, to not be able to enjoy a home life, because we fell in love with someone from overseas, is extremely difficult. As New Zealand citizens and permanent residents we feel disappointed and disheartened that our partners and children have not been taken into consideration when making decisions to protect our country from Covid-19.
From our recent communications with INZ, we have been informed that all offshore visa applications, including partnership categories, are currently on hold and are of low priority. At this stage, there is no information as to when partners / children of New Zealand citizens and permanent residents will be allowed to enter our country.
We know that we are some of thousands of New Zealand citizens and permanent residents currently separated from our partners. It is terrifying not knowing if there are any plans to allow partners/children of New Zealanders to enter the country any time soon. Most of us have had to navigate long distance romance and bureaucratic and financial challenges. We chose to be with our partners despite these difficulties because we love them, they should be here with us.
We want our families to come home. We plead with you to prioritise processing offshore Partnership of New Zealander Visas and allow exemptions to the border closure for partners, as per stated in the INZ criteria. We believe that our government is capable of taking the right measures to protect our country as well as our families, just as economic activity has been protected by allowing the Avatar team and international students to enter. Is our wellbeing not as important as the economy? The impact on our lives is serious, some of our partners have been left with nowhere to live as their family home is here in New Zealand with us. It is extremely difficult to watch your loved one struggle from so far away, impotent to help. Kiwi families should be together. We would greatly appreciate your empathy and assistance in bringing our families home to continue living our lives. Our hearts are with all facing displacement from their homes and families.
Your New Zealand Citizens, Permanent Residents and their immediate families
'Border restrictions set high'
According to an Immigration New Zealand (INZ) spokesperson, the Government's current border restrictions mean people on temporary visas who are currently offshore are not able to come back to New Zealand unless they meet the strict border exemption criteria.
However, exemptions include partners, dependent children (aged 24 years and under) and legal guardians of New Zealand citizens and residents — which means the families part of the group who wrote this letter should be allowed to return home.
Earlier this week, the INZ spokesperson said the bar for being granted an exception to the border restrictions was set high to help minimise the risks to New Zealand posed by Covid-19.
"Any decisions on when to lift the border restrictions will be made by the Government," they said.
By last Tuesday, Immigration New Zealand had received 9140 border exemption requests - 1478 were granted.
Around half of those making requests made it under the "family of a New Zealand citizen or resident" or "New Zealand-based family of a temporary visa holder in New Zealand" categories.
On Wednesday morning Ardern gave work visa holders and students overseas a glimmer a hope when she told Radio Tarana that the Government was seriously looking at ways to safely let back in "people who have been separated from their lives here in New Zealand".
"The first thing we need to do is to make sure that those who have been separated from their lives here in New Zealand are able to come back in," Ardern said.
"So that's a group I place our priority on and we're working through that, and the second would be those who have a legal right to be able to work or study here."
Meanwhile, Lees-Galloway told Radio Tarana on Monday that migrants on work visas stranded overseas could not expect to return to New Zealand any time soon.
He said there was "a lot of work that needs to be done", but advised migrants stuck overseas to engage with their consulate or embassy if they needed to sort their affairs out back in New Zealand.