By Harry Lock of RNZ

A 16-year-old girl who arrived from Spain on Friday was initially put into "isolation" in a central Auckland hotel with two other unaccompanied young people, including a 17-year-old boy.

Nadia Leech was on a student exchange programme in southern Spain and arrived in New Zealand at 4am on Friday. However, she was told she could not catch her connecting 8am flight to Christchurch.

Her mother Kylie says it appeared Customs and Ministry of Health staff at Auckland International Airport were unsure of what to do with unaccompanied minors landing in the country.


"It was a bit confusing when she arrived at Auckland Airport, because it did seem those organising things there were unprepared for minors to be on the flight, of which there were about three, apparently."

An unaccompanied minor is usually a child under the age of 15 or 16 who is travelling without a parent or guardian.

Kylie said her daughter was taken to a hotel where she could self-isolate - but she was put in a suite with the other young people.

Nadia Leech pictured with her mother Kylie. Photo: Supplied
Nadia Leech pictured with her mother Kylie. Photo: Supplied

"They had just put the minors together, even though they didn't know each other, and they weren't a bubble as such.

"The hotel just lumped them all together and didn't quite know what to do with them. It was sorted out fairly quickly, but it was quite upsetting because they weren't told anything."

Nadia Leech was on a student exchange programme in southern Spain. Her host mother drove her six hours to Madrid, from where she took a flight to New Zealand via Doha.

"Nadia was told that maybe there was a chance she would get to home in the next couple of days, because [of] exceptional circumstances [and] being a minor, I guess," Kylie says.

"But that didn't happen, which is okay. We understood that was difficult at the time because flights just stopped, and they had a lot of people to deal with." The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website


Despite the hope Nadia might be able to make it home soon, the family has not been told when or if that could happen.

"My mother and a friend of mine texted me and said, 'Did you hear they're going to start flights for people in self-isolation to Christchurch?' And I had no idea - that was the first I'd heard of it.

"We rang the hotel [yesterday] and they say they can't really give us any information, but yes they believe that's happening, but they have no control over it."

She said there hadn't been much recognition of the need to help unaccompanied minors and she wanted some certainty about their situation.

The Ministry of Health has been approached for comment.