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Minister vetoed on Christchurch response visa extension

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway wanted to extend Christchurch response visa

The immigration minister originally wanted to extend permanent residency to a greater number of family members following the mosque shootings, but could not get the change past Cabinet.

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Image: Martin Boose/freeimages.com

The details are revealed in papers that went to Cabinet ahead of the decision in April to create the Christchurch Response visa.

This allowed family of witnesses, the injured and the bereaved who were living in New Zealand on 15 March to apply for permanent residency.

The visa was confined to a person's partner, dependent children or their parent but the papers showed the minister of immigration, Iain Lees-Galloway, pushing for it to also include siblings and non-dependent children.

It would have opened the visa up to another 52 people, on top of the 188 allowed under the visa as it currently stood.

The Pakistan Association has been helping victims and its vice president, Asim Mukhtar, said the minister should have gone further and extended the visa to cover family not here when the shootings happened.

"People who have actually migrated, they were heavily dependent on each other. One of us has gone. It means the second person is left alone in this whole country to look after the two kids or three kids. So this is very important where the government has to give at least an extra visa to a brother or the parents who can come here and live with the families."

As migrants, the women made widows by the mosque attacks needed their wider families here to help them provide for their children, he said.

"They are ready to go out and work but the only thing which will stop them is they do not have anybody to look after their kids, even if they can drop them to daycare. She can't do this practice day in day out, you always need a family support in there. So unfortunately the policy which came from the government was not sufficient."

Former Immigration Minister and now immigration consultant, Tuariki Delamere, said extending the Christchurch Response visa to further family members was problematic.

"The government has to be careful not to spread it too wide and there will be people there who see this as an opportunity to jump the queue. And you know, use the mosque shooting as a reason to try and sneak in the back door."

Many of those applying to have their relatives granted permanent residency had been turned down by Immigration New Zealand.

Their last hope was that the minister would use his discretion and grant it to them instead.

Mr Delamere said unlike the department, the minister could take in to consideration the very special circumstances at play here.

He said if he was still the minister he would find it difficult to say no to many of these families.

"I don't think any minister of immigration has ever faced anything like this. As minister you have individual cases which are very moving, very tragic, but nothing, you can't even remotely consider anything that I faced as anywhere near the scale of what happened in Christchurch."

Mr Lees-Galloway said the number of people covered by the visa was ultimately a decision for Cabinet to make.

"Obviously this was all done as soon as we could after the attack occurred. And so we looked at options before ultimately landing on covering the people that we did."

Unless he decided to use his discretion and grant family members permanent residency, most would have to leave in September when their visitor visas expired, leaving those widowed or left badly injured by the attacks to struggle on alone.


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