A Givealittle page has been launched for fundraising to support legal action against Immigration Minister’s decision of lapsing General Visitor Visa applications for partners living offshores.
“We need your funds to back what is in effect a Class Action that impacts thousands of partners of those living in New Zealand,” the page read.
The page is aiming to generate $50,000 in next 5 days and so far 138 generous donors have contributed $7290. (https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/immigration-legal-action-fund?fbclid=IwAR22rp1OnuqK6Ioa91yMkgj6UrapC8PT9qTq-h1fG_Vnz211yW_1ZJ2-E2A)
Notably, the lawyers Pooja Sunder and Stewart Dalley from the legal firm D&S Law has led the efforts of several other lawyers, immigration advisers and activists seeking fair and just treatment of partners of people residing in New Zealand and separated from their overseas based partners because of archaic immigration rules and filed a case for judicial review on July 22.
The legal action decision was primarily precipitated by Immigration Minister’s two preceding decisions
The first decision was dated 23 June 2021, related to the continued suspension of the processing of offshore visa applications until 06 February 2022, and the second, dated 07 July 2021, was the Minister’s decision to issue instructions to Immigration New Zealand to lapse or return and refund offshore visas, including applications made by partners of New Zealanders and migrants.
These decisions are causing heightened distress among the impacted community.
The two decisions are being challenged in the High Court on the grounds
a) that Immigration NZ failed to adequately take into account the international legal human rights obligations that give special protection to the family unit and
b) has discriminated against those partners unable to live together offshore for reasons including religion, culture, sex or sexual orientation.
Noted Immigration Adviser and activist Katy Armstrong has told the Indian Weekender that the judicial review case is not just about one individual.
“It impacts a whole class of partners (and their children) stranded overseas. It impacts those temporary visa holders whose partners are stuck off-shore unable to apply for partnership visas,” Armstrong said.
“It impacts all partners (of temporary migrants or New Zealanders) who cannot meet the "living together" requirements for partnership,” Armstrong said.
Many couples cannot live together before both partners enter New Zealand due to their ethnic, and religious backgrounds or as a result of cultural and religious traditions. It is also not possible for many of those who identify as part of the LGBTIQ+ community as many countries do not permit LGBTIQ+ partnerships much less allow them to live together.
Kiwi-Indian community worst affected by INZ’s arbitrary action on Partnership Visa
It is important to note that the Kiwi-Indian community has been one of the biggest single community to have experienced the wrath of the government’s ineptitude in handling Immigration NZ’s handling of partnership visa issues.
In 2019, the issue came up to the fore when Immigration New Zealand started a mass rejection of applications emanating from their Mumbai office, apparently to clear the long burgeoning visa processing queue, on the grounds of not issuing the alternative “general visitor visa” based on the relationship with their New Zealand based partners.
On persistent media probing and community outrage, especially against a racist barrage against the Indian community by a then Minister of the crown under the current government, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern intervened and made claims that the issue has been fixed and the perceived bias against Indian marriages for the purpose of visa was removed.
That claim, as it turned out, was not correct, and Immigration New Zealand’s bias against relationships based on Indian marriages continued and no “Partnership visas” were issued for entering into the country.
As a band-aid solution then, INZ returned to the pre-May 2019 position of issuing an alternative “general visitor visa” to facilitate members of the Kiwi-Indian community to bring their overseas-based spouses.
When the NZ government closed the borders in March 2020 – all such Kiwi-Indians who had married their overseas-based partners as per their traditional Indian marriages were not allowed to enter New Zealand. (This also included people who have already arrived in New Zealand on such alternatively issued visitor visas and were travelling overseas at the time of border closure).
Surprisingly, and unfortunately, the Kiwi-Indian community and their leaders had not taken up on the issue that was clearly discriminatory and biased against Indian marriages.
Call for generous donation to support legal action.
Meanwhile, calling for generous donation from everyone experiencing the wrath of immigration systems and the well-wishers in wider communities Armstrong posted in a Facebook group dedicated to families & partners separated by NZ’s closed borders, “We have 3500 Members in this group. We are asking every single one of you to consider donating if you can (but only if you can). Get your friends, family members, employers know too! Legal Action is an expensive affair, even when you have lawyers like D&S Law willing to act for reduced fees. If everyone puts in something we can reach our target of 50k. As someone yesterday said, they have already spent $450 on border exceptions that have gone nowhere. Let's put our funds to this action and break new ground together!!! No matter how big or small. We will also seek donations from the wider community.”