Lawyers acting on behalf of Afghans who cannot obtain visas to come here have told the High Court that the government has not acted fairly.
The Wellington High Court is hearing a challenge to the decisions of the Cabinet, the Minister of Immigration and Immigration of New Zealand.
Afghans applied for visas before Covid arrived, but are caught in delays related to border closures.
Emergency moves to evacuate people since the Taliban took over in August have not applied to them, as New Zealand has prioritized Afghans who assisted New Zealand agencies there.
His lawyer told the court that the two cases mentioned, representing 70 others, run a “significant risk”.
Wendy Aldred said that all Crown decision makers, from Cabinet onwards, “did not take into account New Zealand’s international obligations.”
The cabinet had not acted “fairly or reasonably,” he told the court.
Among those affected by the delays is a woman who cannot leave Afghanistan because Immigration in this country has withheld her passport for three years, despite the fact that she decided to stop issuing the Refugee Family Support visas 18 months ago.
The two cases discussed in court were directly related to people who worked in New Zealand and “fear for their lives,” Aldred said.
But they did not fit the “narrow” definition of humanitarian reasons applied by the Crown, he said.
Community Law Waikato is taking the case to Superior Court.
He argues that immigration decisions are “illegal.” His appeal to Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi in May to intervene failed.
Aldred told the court that the “blanket” denial of visa processing or issuance did not allow individual cases to be argued.
Since August and the Taliban takeover, the situation has gotten much worse for the applicants.
Aldred read a statement from an Afghan now settled here about his fears for his family still in Afghanistan, who are Hazara and are at higher risk.
This man worked for the NZDF in Bamiyan province, including acting.
He said it would be easy for the Taliban to find out and identify his family.
At the evacuation, his group asked New Zealand to take them away saying “if they leave us in Afghanistan they will kill us because we work for you,” Aldred said in his statement.
His family was now hiding in Kabul. If he couldn’t get on the phone once a week, “I’m worried they died,” the court heard.
Community Law has argued that the Cabinet, by restricting urgent resettlement in August to Afghans (and their immediate families) who had assisted New Zealand agencies such as the Defense Forces during the deployment, “misinterpreted the nature and extent of the risk created by New Zealand Presence in Afghanistan “.
The 70 or so applicants had applied for a new type of visa, the new critical purpose visitor visa created under Covid.
The Crown had suggested that this was the correct route for them to go down. But they were all turned away by INZ, despite being “in a pretty desperate situation,” Aldred said.
Community Law said in notes that “INZ has applied and continues to apply a gloss … to narrow down the ‘humanitarian reasons’ to focus on the circumstances relating to New Zealand.”
Immigration New Zealand first stopped processing refugee family support visas, then restarted it, but is still not making any final decisions on this.
The Superior Court hearing continues.