Migrant couple denied return to NZ

Queenstown migrants Charlie Grant and Zara Meekins have been denied a return to NZ on...
Queenstown migrants Charlie Grant and Zara Meekins have been denied a return to NZ on humanitarian grounds. Photo via Mountain Scene
Immigration New Zealand doesn’t believe a desperate Queenstown migrant couple, stuck in Bali since March because of Covid-19 border restrictions, meet its humanitarian criteria to let them return.

Mountain Scene last week reported Brits Charlie Grant and Zara Meekins were holidaying there when their flight home was cancelled.

Since then they’ve been increasingly struggling to survive on dwindling funds while their requests to return have been repeatedly spurned by Immigration NZ.

Immigration NZ border & visa operations boss Nicola Hogg, whose reply arrived after last week’s deadline, says “the border is NZ’s best protection in our fight against Covid-19, which is why NZ’s border remains closed to all but NZ citizens and residents”.

“The bar for being granted an exception … is set high to help stop the spread of Covid-19 and protect the health of people already in NZ.”

Hogg notes Grant’s in NZ on an essential skills work visa and Meekins is on a partnership-based work visa.

She acknowledges the couple have made several requests for an exception to the border restrictions under Immigration NZ’s humanitarian criteria, but it’s been determined they don’t meet the “high threshold” for consideration.

Grant, in an email, says: “How can they not justify our case as an humanitarian exemption?

“How much worse could it get before they intervene?

“It feels as if our case is not being read by a human being.

“It seems like a very generic mass reply which is void of emotion, when people are suffering.

“Especially when some of the exemptions that have been made are for far less critical needs, e.g. Avatar film crew, previously-deported people and even people with little to no connection to NZ.”

In response to some suggesting they “go back to England”, Grant says “we sold everything we own in the UK over five years ago to commit to our life in NZ”.

“We’d have nowhere to return to there, we’d end up in a heavily-infected country and it would just put us further away from our home in NZ.”

He says since Scene’s article, “we’ve both had an unbelievable amount of support from kind strangers in Bali and from NZ”.

Outgoing local MP Hamish Walker, who’s pushed the couple’s case, says “if Charlie and Zara don’t meet the humanitarian threshold for this government, I don’t know what does”.


Good job immigration New Zealand, keep New Zealand safe for New Zealanders.

They are on Visa's for goodness sake, NZ really is a soft touch. This is a media driven agenda, some to the idiots cannot even stay in quarantine and we are told it's not their fault they escape. They have a choice..they can go back to England

We said buddy

“The bar for being granted an exception … is set high to help stop the spread of Covid-19 and protect the health of people already in NZ.”

What has this got to do with whether these two are accepted back or not? Assuming they go through quarantine, why do they pose a greater risk as 'foreigners' than Dusty's mates - good ole kiwis? Does INZ lack confidence in the Government's ability to provide appropriate quarantine facilities? At the very least, I should think they're less likely to leg it!

There are risks in travelling, people have become very arrogant in how they travel. Why were they still there in March, it was obvious that the world was changing, there is a thing called personal responsibility.
They can go back to the UK and sort it out from there. Until every Kiwi who wants to return, is safely back in the country, people like this stay at the back of the line.

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter