New Zealand Residents Stuck in Afghanistan Despite High Court Win

Afghan Nationals who had their visa applications unlawfully suspended by Immigration NZ are still stranded in Afghanistan more than two months after the High Court directed the prompt processing and granting of their visas.

Listen to full RNZ interview with CLCA CEO Sue Moroney here.

Those granted visas are now having critical safe travel assistance from the NZ Government withheld from them.

“These people face dire circumstances because of the unlawful suspension of their visa applications and now the Government won’t provide services they offer to other New Zealand visa holders from the successful Afghanistan DepartureTaskforce,” says Community Law Centres o Aotearoa CEO, Sue Moroney.

“We urge the Government to fix this unjust situation urgently. These New Zealand Residents are in life-threatening situations. They have been in hiding for six months now – they have run out of money, food and water during a harsh Afghanistan winter.

“They are desperate for the support to safely leave Afghanistan – something they could easily have done before the Taliban takeover if their visa applications hadn’t been unlawfully suspended.”

All of these New Zealand residents have family in New Zealand waiting to welcome their loved ones with housing, food and support now they have their visas granted.

Because of their exclusion from the services of the Afghanistan Response Taskforce, some of their documentation is not recognised by other countries they need to travel to, transit visas are not facilitated, accommodation is not provided while they wait for flights in transit and they face a lower priority for emergency MIQ places.

Other New Zealand visa holders have Ministry of Foreign Affairs case managers to coordinate all of this for them.

The granting of visas has also been slow, with just 17 of the 77 applicants issued with Family Support Category visas since the judgment in November.

“We were shocked to discover there were just two people processing these visas after the High Court directed Immigration to promptly process and grant them,” says Sue. “There is normally 5 people processing these visas. The team has recently been increased to nine but they are still in training.”

Another 13 applicants have received Critical Purpose Visitor Visas while they await the processing of their residence visas but this make MIQ bookings harder to secure.

“The Government made a commitment to do everything possible to get NZ visa holders out of Afghanistan. The plight of these NZ residents can be addressed by Government ministers extending the services of the Afghanistan Departure Taskforce to them.” said Sue.

 

Media contacts:

Sue Moroney, CEO Community Law: 027 422-7831 sue@clca.co.nz

Background

Twenty-four Community Law Centres work out of over 140 locations across New Zealand to provide free legal help and advice to those who are unable to pay for a private lawyer or who do not have access to legal aid. This advice covers all aspects of New Zealand’s legal system, including family law, employment issues, housing problems, consumer advice and criminal law. As well as around 250 staff, Community Law’s services are boosted by over 1,200 volunteer lawyers who run clinics and deliver free advice and assistance.

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