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Luana Karina de Aguiar Goncalves, of Brazil but now a New Zealand citizen, said of 113 people she knew stuck in their homeland, 68 had been unable to get Immigration NZ (INZ) approval to return, and while the other 45 had gained approval, because airline connections had been severed, they also remained stuck.
Ms Goncalves said the approvals only lasted three months, which might not be long enough for them to secure flights back to New Zealand.
Some stranded Brazilians were still paying rent and other bills in Queenstown, and their cars and belongings remained there too.
They were not able to work while in Brazil - they were self-isolating so they could catch a flight at any stage, she said.
Queenstown resident Kaye Parker said the situation was ‘‘a real tragedy for both the companies who want them back, and the people themselves’’.
Mrs Parker said she understood the need to control New Zealand’s borders, but questioned why those with supporting letters from their employers, and on work-to-residence visas, could not be given approval to return.
One Queenstown example was Erika Marques, a supervisor for cleaning company A Woman’s Touch, who was visiting her sick father in Brazil when the borders closed.
She was booked to fly back on April 28, but her flight was cancelled three weeks earlier.
Ms Marques had been with A Woman’s Touch for four and a-half years, and was on a work-to-residence visa. Despite a supporting letter from her employer, and the company being included among ‘‘essential services’’ during the lockdown, she had not been allowed to return.
A Woman’s Touch quotes manager Esther Gantus said
some with partners or children in New Zealand had been allowed back, but others in the same circumstances had not, she said.
INZ border and visa operations general manager Nicola Hogg said that those who believed they could meet exceptions criteria - for example, essential health workers - could apply, but first must consider the availability of flights home.
‘‘The bar for being granted an exception to the border restrictions is set high to help stop the spread of Covid-19 and protect the health of people already in New Zealand.’’
However, Radio NZ this week quoted Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway saying he was considering how to let about 10,000 migrants back into New Zealand, while saying they might need to reconsider their employment.