Let us bring back Kiwis and migrant workers stranded overseas

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‘They are us’ and their place is in our economy, our communities

(Image from www.groundedkiwis.com)

Venkat Raman
Auckland, January 16, 2022

Every time I notifications on the Grounded Kiwis website (www.groundedkiwis.com), and Kiwis stuck in India, my heart goes out to them.

“Thousands of Kiwis trying to return to Aotearoa New Zealand or travel abroad are currently grounded, unable to enter their own country. Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) spaces are fully booked for months, and a new lobby system requires Kiwis to enter a lottery to try and return home. This lottery system is unfair, valid emergency applications are routinely denied, and there has been no consideration of alternatives for fully vaccinated returnees. MIQ needs to change.”

About our unfortunate people

This is a group of about 2000 Kiwis- not very high by any standard, and hence easy to manage. Bringing home 2000 Kiwis or a couple of thousands more, should not be a problem. We need them as much as they need to be with us.

Let us help them now when help is most needed.

Besides, it is not fair to shut the doors on them.

We laud the continuous communications that Muktesh Pardeshi, India’s High Commissioner to New Zealand has had with the New Zealand government to allow migrant workers who have been grounded in India for the past almost two years.

There are about 800 Indians who were in India prior to the first lockdown that occurred in March 2020 following the outbreak of Covid-19. They are a part of many others who are stranded in other parts of the world including Australia.

(Image from Facebook)

To his credit, the then Foreign Minister Winston Peters had advised ‘all New Zealand residents overseas to return home as soon as possible since Coronavirus brought uncertainty.’

However, not all of them could return home immediately. Among them are our people who had gone to India to attend to urgent family matters, including attending weddings, funerals, tending to their aged parents and for many other valid reasons.

Appeal by Muktesh Pardeshi

They have been anxiously awaiting a government notification allowing them to return home.

Mr Pardeshi has been appealing from time to time to the Prime Minister, Ethnic Communities Minister, Immigration Minister and other officials but thus far, except promises, no firm action has been forthcoming.

Speaking at the Eleventh Annual Indian Newslink Lecture with Director-General of Health Dr Ashely Bloomfield on August 16, 2021 at Mahatma Gandhi Centre in Auckland, he said that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had shared her vision on August 12, 2021 for the reconnection of New Zealand with the rest of the world.

India’s High Commissioner Muktesh Pardeshi appealed to the New Zealand government to allow the return of stranded Indians while giving his ‘Reflections’ to Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield’s Lecture at the Indian Newslink Lecture Series 2021 on Monday, August 16, 2021 (INL Picture by Narendra Bedekar)

“As New Zealand has shown remarkable resilience in dealing with the pandemic, it also needs to show the way by showing a better understanding of the enormous life-threatening challenges faced by deserving students and split families. A quick rollout of vaccination and expanded governance challenge before us is about improving the quality of life of everyone in an inclusive and sustainable manner,” he said.

Mr Pardeshi said that it was heart-rending to hear the anguish of families separated for the past 20 months- with one person living in New Zealand and their spouses, children and other immediate family members leading anxious lives in India.

“During these hard times, the High Commission has been at the forefront of looking after the welfare of the distressed citizens in New Zealand. Both countries and their people have stood together in solidarity. In our humanitarian endeavours, we have received support from all quarters- from the New Zealand government as well as from the Indian community organisations. I take this occasion to record my deepest appreciation to all,” he said.

There have been many groups, including the ‘United Voice,’ and ‘Grounded Kiwis,’ that have been representing to the government to open the borders for all those with temporary visas to come back to New Zealand and continue their livelihood.

Hundreds of people have written to say that their Work Visas will expire shortly and thereafter their return will become even more problematic.

Appeal to Leadership

We are now requesting our Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi, Diversity, Inclusion and Ethnic Communities Minister Priyanca Radhakrishnan to open the borders and allow the return of our people.

We have carried a story in our January 15, 2022 reading which will melt hearts.

Grounded Kiwis Spokesman Martin Newell said that people who want to travel across the border, just from Australia, are also desperate – the stories are heart-breaking, the mental toll that is taking on a lot of Kiwis is really tough.

“Many of them are getting very limited assistance. A lot of people need to get home for various reasons. They are heartbroken that their country had turned its back on them,” he said.

As we present our January 15, 2022 issue of Indian Newslink, we thank Mr Pardeshi for his work in this area and hope that the government will come to the rescue of migrant workers stranded overseas.

After all, they are a part of our communities and their services to our country cannot and should not be ignored. Their contributions to our economic progress are now more crucial than ever.

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