The government has taken a second shot at New Zealand's border reopening, and expectedly the decision has brought hope and certainty for some, while confusion for many others waiting anxiously for this important decision.
Expectedly, and a bit unfortunately, the confusion is reserved, may be unintendedly, for the vast swathe of ethnic migrant communities, who have been most severely impacted by NZ's border closure for the last two years.
On the one hand, there were "tens of thousands" of temporary work visa holders, including international students, who were ordinarily living in NZ before being locked out of the country when the borders were closed suddenly in March 2020.
On the other, there is a vast cohort of temporary migrants (in the range of 200,000-300,000), who are living onshore and have been locked-inside the country – as they did not have the ability to re-enter NZ – since the borders continue to remain closed for all non-citizens and non-residents and those who have a critical purpose of entering the country.
Clearly, there was nothing substantial on the offer in the immediate future to relish and cherish – except a bleak hope of being allowed to re-enter New Zealand in October 2022 – a distant nine months away.
Indeed, they remain passive onlookers and reluctant participants in all the euphoria that may arise with this recent border reopening announcement in coming days, yet expected to celebrate along with everyone else, just to show everyone that they still feel like being part of the team of 5 million, or plus 1 million overseas living Kiwis – which in reality they do not feel the same.
Yes, temporary migrants, either stuck offshore or living onshore, are repeatedly made to feel that they are not a part of such a high branded team of five million or others despite having invested heavily and borne exorbitant costs for still persisting with the dream of Kiwi-life in NZ.
Anyway, it's not that easy for giving up on the dreams of building a new life in a foreign country after having done the hard yards and, in many cases, borrowed heavily to breathe life into such dreams.
So temporary migrants – in the true reflection of their daunting spirit, of persisting and surviving regardless of what life throws at them – will continue to hold the long ropes of hopes.
They will see this latest announcement as the first step that would address the grievances of people who have superior legal and legitimate rights in comparison to them, even if their plight or desperation may be slightly more than theirs.
At least this will free up the queue ahead of them, and then this highly distracted government would have some breathing space to be able to think and act on their plight – if they choose to do so.
However, from the chatter within the wider community, it does seem that this government may not have the desire and the will to act in favour of at least the temporary migrant workers (including post-study work visa holders) stuck overseas.
In this announcement, the government has vowed to open the border to current offshore temporary visa holders, who can still meet the relevant visa requirements in the third stage of border opening (April 13, 2022).
The only question is that it is going to be either impossible to find many such offshore stuck temporary visa holders, who still have valid visas and valid employment with their current employers even after two years – or there would be only minuscule numbers to deserve a class action.
Similarly, there is no clarity about 5000 international students that the government envisages to allow in the third stage in April this year – whether they will be altogether new students bringing fresh international studies fees or the ones who were caught overseas two years ago.
Clearly, the government has tried to touch on three important issues, intertwining them together and even exacerbating the level of confusion in one same announcement.
The issues are – MIQ removal, border closure and immigration "reset."
The mixing of the issue of MIQ removal with border closure might be a mark of naivety or ignorance within the government – and is understandable.
The reference to "immigration reset" and the emphasis on only getting so-called high earning high-skilled migrant workers who earn 1.5 times the median wages of NZ during this announcement – which would be highly emotional for many – is just in poor taste.
The government could have done better.
The obsession with the immigration reset could have been scheduled for another day.