Ardern: No plans for charter flights from India

Mumbai airport. India's Covid-19 death toll passed a quarter of a million this week, and experts...
Mumbai airport. India's Covid-19 death toll passed a quarter of a million this week, and experts say the worst could still be to come. Photo: Getty Images
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the Government is not planning to help travel agents trying to organise private charter flights for New Zealanders stranded in India.

The Government is waiting to see whether commercial flights out of India will come back on stream after being paused, she said this morning.

Travel agencies and the Indian community are reported to be organising flights to repatriate New Zealanders from India which could be ready to go by the end of the month if they get approval from officials here.

Ardern said she was aware of that but the Government had no plans to facilitate such flights because commercial flights may come back on stream.

"I would also highlight that there are some who are managing to find a path through [from India to New Zealand], travel agents have been able to support people with that so I would just urge people to use those options as well."

Jacinda Ardern said the Government is waiting to see when commercial flight out of India will...
Jacinda Ardern said the Government is waiting to see when commercial flight out of India will resume. Photo: RNZ
Ardern said citizens are able to return to New Zealand and the current situation is to do with the fact the commercial operators, mainly Emirates, have paused their flights.

She said Emirates has said flights would be paused until the end of this month.

"So let's see if they continue with that pause or whether they lift it, but as I say there are other airlines that have provided pathways ... but let's be very clear this is not something New Zealand has done, it's just simply commercial operators have changed the way they're operating."

Some of the charter flights only become viable when there are several hundred people wanting to travel, Ardern said.

"My view is it's more likely the commercial operations will come back on stream before we see something like a charter of that scale organised."

Ardern said the government has repatriated thousands of New Zealanders but also warned people not to travel because they may not be able to get them out of a country.

Calls for a roadmap to allow families to reunite
A campaigner on behalf of migrant families said there needs to be a roadmap to allow more people in so families can be re-united.

The co-president of the Federation of Aotearoa Migrants, Charlotte de Riet Scholten-Phillips, said the organisation is not demanding the borders be thrown open.

But she said more places have to be made available in MIQ facilities and restrictions on who is allowed in the country must be eased.

She said the protest was about those who cannot enter the country, but also those people who are already in New Zealand but who are struggling through the immigration system.

De Riet Scholten-Phillips said it would not be difficult to allocate some spots in MIQ for the reunification of families and bringing people back who are on post-study work visas and open work visas who would normally have the right to be here.

"Let's have this roadmap in place to get people back into the country and again, not tomorrow, but tell people in a month, two months, three months, six months - I'll see my child again, I'll be able to come back into the country that I call home."

She said most people want stability and certainty in their lives.

"When we come here as skilled migrants and as people who have something to offer this country, yes we need the right to stay here because we need stability for our families, it's horrible, it's horrible to have this temporary life of you never know if the next visa is going to get approved."

But Ardern said as MIQ has had greater capacity the government has extended the range of people eligible to enter New Zealand.

She said there is now a process where people can apply to have their families reunited with them if they meet the appropriate threshold.

Ardern said immigration processes are rigourous and it can take some time.




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