Afghan Nationals Fleeing to Pakistan Need Urgent Help From New Zealan

Community Law clients in Afghanistan who met the criteria for residency in New Zealand can escape to safety if the New Zealand Government completes the processing of their residence visa applications says Community Law Centres O Aotearoa CEO, Sue Moroney.

“Some Community Law clients have already made it across the border into Pakistan and others are heading that way, now evacuation has stopped from Kabul airport,” says Sue. “Some things are outside the NZ Government’s control, but this is one practical thing our Government can do to get people with family in New Zealand to safety.”

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade is urging those who have made it to other countries with New Zealand visas to contact the New Zealand Embassy for support to travel to New Zealand. “The only thing stopping these people from accessing that help is the final step in Immigration NZ approving their residency visas which have been sitting in limbo for at least 18 months,” says Sue. “This is a self-imposed paralysis by Immigration NZ that can be quickly addressed with the will of the Government to do so. Taking this action would honour the Prime Minister’s undertaking to do everything possible to help those who helped New Zealand in Afghanistan.”

Community Law Waikato is working with barristers from Stout Street Chambers and Brandon Street Chambers on judicial review proceedings against the Minister of Immigration and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. The legal team is led by Wendy Aldred from Stout Street
Chambers.

A hearing on interim orders associated with this action was heard earlier this week. While the request for interim orders was not granted, the judgment recognised the “Catch 22” situation Immigration New Zealand’s actions have placed these families in and that the applicants have an arguable case. The legal team will be continuing to progress the substantive proceeding on an urgent basis.

“We would much rather INZ used its resources to process these applications instead of defending litigation but our job is to make sure that the law is upheld for those who need it most.” All of these clients represented in the legal action have family in New Zealand and are in danger because they or someone close to them helped the NZ Defence Force or because they are single mothers at the head of their household. The Court granted their application for name suppression at the outset, recognising the danger of public association with New Zealand or the Defence Force. They are part of the refugee family reunification quota of 300 that the NZ Government had already agreed to bring to New Zealand last year. Their visas were put on hold when the borders closed in March 2020.

Most of these people have already had security checks done, some have had medicals. Some have had their first Covid immunisation. A requirement of their residence application is that their family member in New Zealand arranges housing for them.

The judicial review proceedings name 70 Community Law Waikato applicants. Its outcome will be relevant to other Afghan families who have applied under the family reunification category for residence visas, sponsored by family members who already reside here.

“Not having the paperwork completed by Immigration New Zealand is just another unfair hurdle preventing their safe reunification with family in New Zealand in the midst of a humanitarian crisis.”

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

Background
Twenty-three 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 200 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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