Pregnant New Zealand journalist Charlotte Bellis, who is stuck in Afghanistan, said her MIQ application encountered “technicalities and confusion” and was asked to apply under another category.
After being denied an emergency place, MIQ Bellis was assured by senior Taliban officials that she would be safe in Afghanistan, where she and her partner have visas.
However, hospitals and maternity services there were in dire straits, she said.
bellis said morning report she applied for a MIQ place through the medical treatment pathway because it was the right one and under which pregnant women are welcome to apply.
She said she was asked to reapply in a different category, which is for New Zealanders in a location or situation where there is a serious risk to their safety.
“What does this say to women, does it mean there is no way for pregnant women?
“We signed up for the voucher, the medical treatment is the voucher.”
She said authorities had all the information but their application was met with “clauses, technicalities and confusion”.
“First it was ‘we turned you down because it’s over 14 days’. Then it was ‘you don’t meet a threshold for medical stuff’, now it’s something else.
“Why so many excuses and clauses? You have all the information.”
Bellis and her photographer partner Jim Huylebroek submitted 59 documents in their application for an emergency spot at MIQ, she said.
She said another country, of which neither she nor her partner are citizens, had come forward to help.
“As a New Zealand citizen I have the legal right to come back and I will do whatever the government wants in terms of quarantine or whatever, we are boosted.”
Bellis said the government needed to explain “the ethics around this and how it prioritizes, in particular, foreign citizens over their own who are in dangerous situations.”
She said if people tested negative and received the booster dose, then the government should revise its policy to allow them in.
“New Zealand citizens have to fight so hard and jump through various clauses and provide X amount of evidence and apply seven times and go to court. And at the same time you have DJs and athletes… all the foreigners coming in the back door. That’s what I want them to look at and say, ‘is this ethical?'”
She said the whole ordeal and choosing to move to Afghanistan was “surreal”. But she was desperate to give birth in Aotearoa because the state of maternity care in Afghanistan was “absolutely dire”, with limited power and medicine.
Delayed trip did not meet emergency criteria – MIQ
In a statement, MIQ chief Chris Bunny said Bellis applied for an emergency allowance MIQ voucher on Jan. 24, but the requested MIQ date did not meet the emergency criteria. The trip must be priority and urgent, within the next 14 days.
Bellis was asked to reapply within the 14-day period or contact the MIQ if she intended to change her flights to return to New Zealand sooner, according to the statement.
Shortly after her application, the team that handles emergency requests contacted Bellis to provide additional information should she decide to change her flights, according to the statement.
“She applied for Emergency Allowance Category 1a(i) which applies to New Zealand citizens or residents requiring access to urgent medical treatment for the applicant or their dependants, who has been programmed in New Zealand and is not available or inaccessible in their current location.
“On Sunday January 30, 2022, we took it a step further by writing to Charlotte to explain that there is another category of Emergency Allowance (1a(iii)) that she might wish to apply under, and we have defined the criteria that must be met.”
The category is for New Zealanders in a location or situation where there is a serious risk to their safety and their only option is to return to New Zealand.
Pregnancy itself is not considered an emergency under the criteria for emergency allocation, but certain conditions during pregnancy can mean the high bar for an emergency has been reached, according to the release.
In a review in late October 2021, the MIQ made no changes to the existing categories, but agreed reviewers would include consideration of the unborn child when making decisions when pregnancy is part of the claim emergency.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said Bellis had been encouraged by the MIQ to consider moving forward with her plans to meet the 14-day travel criteria.
“I understand that the authorities have also since invited her to apply for another emergency category. I encourage her to take these offers seriously.
“I also understand that she has been offered New Zealand consular assistance twice since returning to Afghanistan in early December, but has not responded. Again, I encourage her to accept any offer of assistance.”
Emergency allocation criteria can include medical treatment if a mother is abroad and cannot get the required treatment where she is, he said.
“The safest option for her is to return to her country and give birth” – Lawyer
Bellis’ attorney, Tudor Clee, said The first standing New Zealand women had endured traumatic overseas births because they could not return.
He said pregnancy was a medical condition but Department for Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) staff without medical qualifications overruled advice from doctors and midwives.
Clee has asked Crown Law to review the legality of MBIE’s decision in the Bellis case, but said he would go to court if the matter is not resolved this week.
“New Zealand’s entire Covid response has been science driven.
“In this particular case we had the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Plunket, the College of Midwives, the New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, Sir Peter Gluckman all say it is medically unethical to force New Zealand women to give birth abroad. or to give birth alone in New Zealand without their partner. And this puts the health of the mother and the potential long-term health of the unborn baby at risk.”
Clee didn’t know if the different category Bellis had been asked to apply applied to her. He said Bellis did not have a visa to stay in his partner’s country, Belgium.
“The safest option for her is to return to her country and give birth where she knows the doctors speak her own language, that she has a right to be there, and then if there is a complication with the baby, that she has family support, and that this baby can be adequately cared for in our excellent New Zealand medical system.
University of Otago epidemiologist Michael Baker said a separate pregnancy category for the MIQ would be “useful”.
But he said morning report that MIQ was still serving its purpose and delayed the variant’s arrival in the community, giving people more time to get boosters and vaccinate children.
He said the MIQ was essentially a “delay mechanism”.
Still, cases of Omicron in the community are expected to double every two to four days, he said.
Baker said that currently about 500 people pass through the MIQ per day.
He said the government had announced that after February the country would move to self-isolation “and the great effect, if there is, it will allow thousands of people to come in a day instead of only a few hundred”.
Hipkins said the MIQ had served New Zealand well, saved lives and prevented the healthcare system from being overwhelmed
“The government, however, has signaled that there will be border changes and will announce them soon.”