Minister for Housing and In-Charge of Managed Isolation and Quarantine Megan Woods has awkwardly confirmed some of the worst fears of tens of thousands of temporary visa holders currently stuck overseas that the government has no plan for extending capacities at those facilities that could have potentially allowed them return to the country, any time sooner.
The Minister was speaking at a media briefing about the announcement for incurring charges for managed isolation and quarantine on Kiwis returning back into the country when she revealed that the government has no plans for extending the quarantine capacities - a slender hope that thousands of temporary visa holders stuck overseas has been holding since last five months.
As per the daily update on managed isolation and quarantine available on government’s Covid-19 website the total capacity on July 2 was of 6058 people which has increased to total 6943 as of July 29.
This revelation could potentially mean an end of the road for many temporary visa holders who have been ordinarily living in New Zealand, in some cases for many years, before being unsuspectingly caught overseas when the NZ borders were closed earlier this year in March.
About tens of thousands of temporary visa holders are currently stuck overseas as NZ borders remain closed and allowing only citizens and residents to enter into the country.
“Our managed isolation system is logistically complex and expensive to run. We have capacities. We have the capacity for over 7000 people and the system in place are being robustly managed,” Megan Woods said.
However, it was what she said immediately after, which gave away innocuously the government’s thinking on this critically important matter that can cast doom on many thousands of temporary visa holders stuck overseas who have been waiting desperately for the government to come up with a plan to allow a sequenced return back into the country.
“At this stage, we have no plan to extend our capacities,” Minister Woods said.
“We recognised early on that managing the flow of people in and out of our managed isolation facilities is absolutely critical for the task ahead. Over the last several weeks we have worked with airlines and airports to manage that flow of incoming people,” Minister Woods further said.
What does this mean for temporary visa holders stuck overseas?
This innocuous revelation by Minister Woods firstly puts an end to hopes of many temporary migrant workers who have been told time and again by government Ministers and MPs in government that the government is working to extend quarantine capacities so as to accommodate them along with other returning Kiwis.
It is important to recall that the former Immigration Minister, other MPs in government have been time and again telling the media, including the Indian Weekender, migrant unions, and advocacy groups, right from the very beginning of the lockdown under Alert Level 4 and then subsequently under different Alert Levels that the government was working hard to enhance capacities for managed isolation and quarantine.
The narrative that was being spun out was that “right now a large number of Kiwis were returning back and the government was bound to allow them back which implied there were not enough places left for other temporary visa holders within the managed isolation and quarantine system.”
The Indian Weekender had earlier raised the point in an exclusive interview with the then and now removed former Minister for Immigration Iain Lees-Galloway that why the government was making it an issue of “rights of New Zealanders versus the rights of Temporary visa holders,” which was never addressed satisfactorily.
The government had, in fact, continued with its narrative that they are working hard to extend capacities at managed isolation and quarantine, which can then facilitate a potential earlier return of temporary visa holders stuck overseas.
The temporary visa holders stuck overseas have been waiting patiently that an enhancement in managed isolation and quarantine capacities can potentially bring some good news for them and facilitate an early return.
However, it seems that with today’s admission that the government is not intending to enhance any capacities as of now, might suggest an end of the road for many temporary visa holders stuck overseas, if not anything else.
Unless there is any specific announcement by either the Minister for Immigration or any other Minister in government that lays out a clear plan for a sequential return of temporary visa holders stuck overseas.
The only silver lining from today's announcement for the temporary visa holders who are currently stuck overseas is that there would not be any charge upon them for managed isolation and quarantine as and when they rtunrs and avail those facilities.
However, the catch remains that the govt does not intend to extend capacities, which for now is being over subscribed by the returning Kiwis.
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