December 5, 2021

Offshore NZ visa-holders stuck in India plan hunger strike

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By: Gurbir Singh

Offshore visa holders unable to return to New Zealand have announced their decision to go on a mass protest, followed by a hunger strike early next month in India’s capital, New Delhi.

The tentative date set is July 7 and according to one of the protest organisers, Jagdeep Dhillon, they propose to stage the protest outside the New Zealand High Commission’s office in Chanakyapuri, New Delhi.

Border closure by New Zealand subsequent to Covid-19 appears to have changed the lives for worse for several hundred offshore visa holders of various categories, who were away overseas and denied re-entry.

Dozens of them have been staging protests in various parts of northern India over past several months calling upon the New Zealand government to allow them to return. Their latest protest was in Chandigarh on 21 June and was reportedly attended by around 160 protesters.

Dhillon outlined their future plan to NewsViews when he was contacted over phone in his home town, Patiala (Punjab-India) yesterday evening.

“There will be a sit-in protest for first two days by around 150 affected migrants from various parts of the region. We are awaiting formal permissions from the Delhi Police and Sub-Divisional Magistrate,” he told NewsViews.

Protest marches by offshore migrants have been ongoing for past several months (photos/supplied)

In Sept last, the government had announced a new border exception for holders of a work to residence visa, essential skills visa or entrepreneur visa. However, the post-study open work visa holders were ignored.

Border exemption was also recently made for seasonal workers and certain other categories, including fisheries.

Dhillon said they are pleading with New Zealand government to give all temporary visa holders visa extensions, and to allow all workers normally resident in NZ to return.They are willing to pay for MIQ.

Jagdeep Dhillon and his wife, Kulvir Kaur have lived in New Zealand for five years. Their daughter was born here. They had a rented house in Papatoetoe, Auckland when they left on 23 Feb 2020 for a holiday to visit their family and planned to return on 23 March 2020.  

Jagdeep & wife, Kulvir are among the hundreds stuck in India (photo/supplied)

Both had jobs when they left. He was employed as a Security officer with Frontline Security and his wife was working in a furniture company in Wiri (Auckland). 

They did not get any wage subsidy and have faced dire financial losses in absence of any income. All their personal/household effects, including car are still here.

“Our jobs are still secure and employers are willing to take us back,” claims Dhillon, but their applications for exemption was declined.

His wife’s post study work visa is due to expire in Sept., 2021.

“It was a shame to see the government allowing people with special privileges to enter New Zealand, but not the people who held valid visas to travel to New Zealand,” laments Dhillon.

Speaking on behalf of other protesters, he pleaded “Our life is ruined. We don’t have any money left to go anywhere else. We are currently spending our days in great sorrow. So please help us.”

Similar case is that of Ludhiana’s Sandeep Kaur who was last working in a Gisborne restaurant. She went back to India in March 2020 and is still there.

Jyoti – holder of a three years post study visa too, was similarly unlucky.  She left New Zealand in Jan 2020 for her marriage in April and is still stuck there.

There seems to be no end to their plight who got caught up for no fault of theirs. Their spending on studies in New Zealand has gone down the drain and dreams shattered.

Representations to various New Zealand authorities, Indian-origin law makers, Indian High Commission, etc have not evoked any response, says Dhillon.

Offshore migrants are not the only ones protesting. Onshore migrant workers are planning a big protest march on 10th July in Auckland under the aegis of the Federation of Aotearoa Migrants. The last ‘March of Migrants’ on 5 June was reportedly attended by approximately 1000 people.

Among other demands, the federation is advocating for pathways to residency and amnesty for all overstayers.


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