NZ’s border to open for tourists before separated families

Immigration lawyers and advocates in New Zealand are echoing similar concerns Pope Francis made during his recent trip to Cypris.

In Cypris, Francis warned Europe of its indifference to migrants, saying migration issues are something society is getting used to.

He went on to label the indifference “a grave disease for which there is no antibiotic”.

The 84-year-old pontiff also said he regretted having to speak about such unpleasant things but added: “It is my responsibility to open eyes.”

“Allow ourselves to be drawn into their suffering in order to react to our indifference; let us look at their faces, to awaken us from the sleep of habit”, urged Francis.

Some 16,500 km away immigration lawyers and advocates are calling out New Zealand’s indifference and its plans to open the border that prioritise tourists over separated Kiwi couples and families.

“We could be looking at well into 2023 until people can get their families into New Zealand”, immigration lawyer Nick Mason says.

He cannot understand why tourists are getting priority over New Zealand citizens and their families.

Other advocates say the visa processing policies “continue to marginalise, confuse and discriminate” people.

To ‘shake’ the New Zealand indifference, some are resorting to legal action.

One man, Michael Witbrock, is taking Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi and MBIE to court over his Chinese husband’s 2019 Visa application being suspended.

Witbrock’s lawyer, Denis Law partner Pooja Sunder says the decision to suspend applications is “unlawful”.

She says it is unfortunate but her client’s case is not unique.

“It is definitely representative of so many split families in New Zealand at the moment,” Sunder told Mike Hosking on NewsTalk ZB.

“He [Faafoi] failed to consider the international obligations that New Zealand has signed up to … like family unity, care of the child, the best interests of the child.”

“Had he done so, he may have come to a different decision”, she said.

Sunder says the New Zealand immigration rules are disproportionately affecting those from specific ethnic groups, gender identity, sexual orientation and religion.

In this regard, she is calling Faafoi’s decisions “discriminatory”.

Another victim of the policy, New Zealand-born teacher Sandeep Gosai, married in India in January 2020. He came home and his wife was to follow soon after.

“But then Covid hit and then ever since then it’s just been a real mission to communicate with the government to get any sort of visa.

“They’ve just kept saying that when the borders open, they’ll think about a visitor visa.

“And for a partnership visa, it’s been really difficult because we don’t meet the [Immigration Act’s] living together requirements.”

The government had refused to read a letter setting out their case and breaches of international law, Gosai said.

MBIE’s immigration policy manager says no decisions have been made yet on how the final phase of border re-opening will happen.



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