Coronavirus: Families split by border restrictions pen emotional letter to Jacinda Ardern

Families and partners split by Covid-19 border restrictions are calling on the government to exercise compassion by allowing their loved ones to return to their homes in New Zealand.

It comes as an experienced immigration advisor describes the government’s handling of the issue as “a disaster”.

An open letter has been penned to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway outlining the emotional toll their indefinite separation is having upon them.


Members of the 'NZ Citizens Separated from Partners by NZ Border Closures' Facebook page have written an open letter to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern pleading for help in reuniting them with their loved ones stuck overseas due to Covid-19 border restrictions.

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Members of the ‘NZ Citizens Separated from Partners by NZ Border Closures’ Facebook page have written an open letter to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern pleading for help in reuniting them with their loved ones stuck overseas due to Covid-19 border restrictions.

Several members of the ‘NZ Citizens Separated by NZ Border Closure’ Facebook group have applied for border exemptions, only to have their applications declined by authorities.

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The lack of information from Immigration New Zealand (INZ) and ongoing uncertainty over when they can be reunited with their loved ones is “causing a huge unnecessary emotional strain on all of us”.

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American Magic and Ineos have applied to have some of their sailing teams enter the country soon, despite the borders being shut.

A montage of images has also been included with the letter, showing the human faces of those affected.

“We are New Zealand’s nurses, tradesmen, mental health professionals, scientists, tax advisors, musicians, teachers and civil servants.”

“New Zealand is, and always will be, our home. At the moment, we have no idea when we will be reunited with our loved ones. Our lives are on hold.

POOL VISION

Don’t expect the border between Australia and NZ to be opened anytime soon.

“To live apart indefinitely, to not be able to enjoy a home life, because we fell in love with someone from overseas, is extremely difficult,” the letter read.

The group has said it was “disappointed” their plights have not been considered by the government and has pleaded for this to change.

“The impact on our lives is serious, some of our partners have been left with nowhere to live as their family home is in New Zealand.

“It is extremely difficult to watch your loved one struggle from so far away, impotent to help. Kiwi families should be together,” the letter added.

Marianna Tomarelli created the group thinking “it would just be a handful of us”.


New Zealand families and partners are unsure when they will get to see their loved ones again, with Covid-19 border restrictions keeping them apart. (File photo)

Bevan Read/Stuff

New Zealand families and partners are unsure when they will get to see their loved ones again, with Covid-19 border restrictions keeping them apart. (File photo)

“But more join by the day and some of the stories are heartbreaking. Mainly everyone just wants information. It’s the not knowing that gets you,” Tomarelli said.

Another New Zealand citizen, who has told her story on the condition of anonymity, has been separated from her partner for seven months.


Peta Cooke, left, has no idea when she will see her South African fiance Cameron Read. She is a member of a Facebook group for NZ citizens who have been separated from their partners and families because of border restrictions.

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Peta Cooke, left, has no idea when she will see her South African fiance Cameron Read. She is a member of a Facebook group for NZ citizens who have been separated from their partners and families because of border restrictions.

“It’s a very distressing not knowing when we could meet again and [my] mental health is not in the best state,” she wrote.

Malcolm Pacific Immigration director David Cooper said there is a “truckload of people feeling that pain”.

“The whole thing about how the government is handling the border has been a disaster,” Cooper said.


Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway, pictured, and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern are the recipients of an open letter from New Zealanders whose partners and families are stuck overseas due to border restrictions.

Ross Giblin/Stuff

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway, pictured, and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern are the recipients of an open letter from New Zealanders whose partners and families are stuck overseas due to border restrictions.

“There’s a whole lot of people that are hurting out there, both in the economic sense with employers [not being able to get their employees back], but also in the emotional sense – people who are separated – and we’re dealing with a lot of people like that.

“It’s the Government that’s got to fix it, and they’re not,” Cooper said.

He questioned why the government has been unable to give a timeframe on when border restrictions could be eased.

“We’re at a point now where the Government needs to make a decision … they’ve been happy to tell us that the 22nd of June we will know whether we are going to [alert] level 1, why can’t they tell us when they’ll make a decision around the border?”

INZ border and visa operations general manager Nicola Hogg said Covid-19 has forced the closure of all of its offshore offices and only applications with an approved border exemption attached are being processed.

The bar for exemptions is “set high” with essential health workers and those with critical humanitarian reasons among the few who are being given special dispensation.

“INZ has no ability to apply discretion” when it comes to exemptions, with about 2000 of the 10,000 applications being declined as of last Sunday.

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