Afghans trying to come to New Zealand have arrived in Pakistan
Community lawyers are pleading with the government to urgently process visas for three groups of Afghans with relatives in New Zealand.
They reached the Pakistani border after air evacuations from Kabul ended with the withdrawal of US troops on Tuesday.
Community Law Center O Aotearoa heard from two groups, a total of nine, exiting Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.
Another group of eight people were at the border but have so far not been allowed to enter Pakistan because their passports are in New Zealand with their visa applications, the director general of Community Law said. Center O Aotearoa, Sue Moroney.
* Afghanistan – yes we have work to do
* Urgent hearing requested on visa delays for desperate Afghans
* Former Kiwi soldier claims Taliban is already stalking their Afghan allies
All have applied for visas, but Immigration New Zealand has not processed any visa applications for 18 months due to the Covid-19 border closure, she said.
All three groups are part of a larger number of cases that Community Law Waikato has taken to the High Court trying to force immigration authorities to process their visa applications.
They were in danger in Afghanistan because they, or someone close to them, assisted the New Zealand Defense Force in Afghanistan, or because they were single female heads of household, Moroney said.
“Some things are beyond the control of the New Zealand government, but it is a practical thing our government can do to keep people and their families in New Zealand safe,” Moroney said.
“Taking this step would honor the Prime Minister’s commitment to do everything possible to help those who have helped New Zealand in Afghanistan.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has urged New Zealand visa holders who have successfully left Afghanistan to contact the New Zealand Embassy for assistance in traveling to New Zealand.
“The only thing preventing these people from accessing this assistance is the final step in NZ Immigration approval of their residency visas which have been in limbo for at least 18 months,” Moroney said.
Legal proceedings continue with a hearing scheduled for the next few days.
An urgent request Monday to obtain visas for six people by plane was rejected. They had traveled to or near Kabul International Airport.
One of the reasons the judge refused to make the orders requested was that almost their chance to leave by plane had already passed. He also said the most he would have done was ask Immigration New Zealand to decide on humanitarian and compassionate temporary visa applications, rather than deciding them himself.
He said he was assured that government ministers had considered the fate of these people and that tough decisions had been made.
But Wellington High Court Judge Francis Cooke’s ruling recognized the “Catch 22” situation in which Immigration New Zealand’s actions had placed the families, and that the applicants had an arguable case, Moroney said.
Those involved in the court case were part of the quota of 300 refugees for family reunification that the government had already agreed to, she said.
Family members already in New Zealand set out to find a place for them to live.