Sunday, 9 May 2021

Covid 19 coronavirus: ‘Our nights are sleepless’ – Migrants’ impassioned plea to Parliament

Distressed migrants at the end of their tether say the Government is the exact opposite of the kind and compassionate image it tries to project.

Emotions ran high at Parliament’s education and workforce select committee this morning, where migrants and their advocates submitted on a bill to extend the immigration powers the Government granted itself last year during the pandemic.

The powers are meant to expire next month, but the bill would push that back to May 2023.

This morning, Ankit Bansal, a New Zealand citizen originally from India, told the committee there was no point extending Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi’s powers because so far he hadn’t opened the borders for migrant families’ loved ones to come to New Zealand.

He said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern flagged migrant issues as a priority in September last year, but after seven months “we’re still at ground zero”.

“To the minister and his boss – stop blowing your own trumpet that you are the most kind, compassionate and caring people on Earth. You’re not.”

Shikha Ahooja begged the committee for “hope” that she could leave Dubai and come to New Zealand to be with her husband, who is a NZ citizen.

She had applied for a partnership visa multiple times, but the applications had been rejected on the grounds they weren’t living together.

“We got married in 2018. It’s a traditional marriage. We cannot live together prior to marriage. We need your help. We want to be a family. We cannot do it if we are not together.

“Give us some kind of hope that we will be together in future.”

Sameera Bandara also became emotional as he told the committee about his wife, who is in Sri Lanka, who couldn’t be with him and his 9-year-old daughter.

His wife had applied for a visa before last year’s lockdown.

“We didn’t expect this Covid-19. Is it fair to treat partners of NZ citizens like this? We were waiting so patiently, but we’re out of patience now.

“If the Government decides to keep closed the borders for partners, please get the vaccine soon. That’s the last option I have. Then [we] can reunite as a family outside the country and fly back to New Zealand when the borders reopen.”

Jagdeep Singh Dhillon raised the issue of visa-holders stick overseas with no pathway to return to New Zealand.

He had spent more than $30,000 to come to New Zealand to study and was on a post-study visa, but got stuck in India when the borders closed in March.

“My daughter was born in New Zealand, but the Government closed the border for temporary visa holders.

“Our belongings, our original documents, our cards and jewellery are stuck in New Zealand. Our nights are sleepless. Some of us think about suicide because we have no other option. Our future is destroyed.”

Migrant Workers Association spokeswoman Anu Kaloti said that Jagdeep Dhillon’s position was not an isolated incident.

“Many have spent all this money to start their immigration journey here, and then they’re not just financially invested but emotionally and socially invested as well.

“Now you can imagine all the migrants still stuck offshore – most of them are paying bills here, still have their rented homes, their vehicles, their belongings of sentimental value.”

She noted that Canada had just decided to offer 90,000 residents visas to migrants.

She said it was unfair that migrants couldn’t bring their partners to New Zealand if they were here pre-Covid, but migrants who arrived since June last year can.

A month ago, Faafoi conceded that this was an “anomaly”, and the Government hoped to have it resolved “soon”.

Faafoi appeared before the committee earlier this week and said a solution was still being worked on.

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