Government Faces Legal Action Over Afghanistan Inaction
Immigration NZ’s refusal to process decision-ready visa applications for people who meet the criteria for NZ residency is putting lives at risk, says Community Law Centres O Aotearoa CEO, Sue Moroney.
Community Law Waikato has worked with barristers from Stout Street Chambers and Brandon Street Chambers to file judicial review proceedings against the Minister of Immigration and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment on Friday. The legal team is led by Wendy Aldred from Stout Street Chambers.
“All of these clients 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,” said Sue. “Not having their paperwork completed is just another unfair hurdle preventing them leaving Afghanistan.”
“Last week, we applauded the Government’s decision to allow border entry for Afghani residents holding NZ visas and we asked that INZ approve the residence applications that had reached a ‘decision-ready’ point and priority process the rest. We received no response to our requests and were forced to file urgent proceedings in the High Court.”
“Instead the Government restricted border entry to those who held a NZ visa on August 19, substantially narrowing the entry exemption it had announced only 5 days earlier.”
“It’s sad to see such a restrictive response to a humanitarian crisis affecting people with family links to New Zealand. They will be the easiest to resettle here
Because these people are awaiting a final decision on their residency applications, some of their passports are in New Zealand, adding another barrier to the option of fleeing to a nearby country.
The applicants meet the criteria to be granted residency visas. All of these applications have been sitting with INZ for at least 18 months with some being in process for three-and-a-half years.
“While the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been responsive, Immigration NZ has been flat-footed on the emerging crisis in Afghanistan, meeting human desperation with bureaucratic inaction.”
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 NZ arranges housing for them.
“Community Law would prefer to have INZ use its resources to process these applications than defend litigation but our communications urging this course of action went unanswered and we were left with no choice in order to do the best for our Community Law clients.”