Bay of Plenty family living on different continents after Covid-19 border closures force them apart

Source: 1News

Hardeep Singh and Belen Macchiavello have lived in New Zealand for a combined total of 16 years. They got married, work and raise their daughter here.

However, the newlyweds are now separated overseas and neither can return to New Zealand with borders shut amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The family was in Argentina to have a religious ceremony following their February wedding when New Zealand announced its border closures in March. Their flights were cancelled, forcing them to lock down in Buenos Aires.

However, when Singh's visitor visa expired he was forced to leave his new wife and baby girl to return to Chandigarh, India.

Now, the family are in lockdowns in different countries and have no idea when they'll be allowed to return home to Te Puke in the Bay of Plenty.

They've been separated for more than three months already.

"It's been really hard, especially for my daughter," Singh told TVNZ1's Breakfast this morning.

The family has applied around eight times to get home, the most recent was about two weeks ago but they were declined the same day.

Singh said they've recently been given hope that they'll be able to return home "sometimes in the future".

However, Macchiavello said they've invested a lot of money into their New Zealand life, including her husband's post-graduate study, and they're still paying hundreds of dollars a week in rent.

"It's a lot of money, we are paying $600 a week and we didn't stop paying, we didn't give up our house because we have all our belongings there, absolutely everything," she said.

"We never know when we are going to go back so if we give up the house and we sell everything then suddenly the next month or two we come back we don't come with a house anymore.

"We found a very beautiful house, we bought everything new and we decided to have a baby too so we were very settled and we were supposed to apply for residency this year when we got back from our wedding."

Hardeep, who has a valid post-study work visa which expires February next year, and Belen, who has a valid visitor visa which expires February next year, say they miss their friends, careers, home and the natural places New Zealand offers.

An Immigration New Zealand spokesperson told 1 NEWS, "While INZ understands that Belen and Hardeep are currently separated due to Hardeep returning to India after he was unable to extend his visitor visa in Argentina, they are both currently in their home country".

The spokesperson said they did not meet the criteria to return on humanitarian grounds, under the “partner of a student or work visa holder” or as an essential worker.

"Belen then made a request for an exception to the border restrictions on 30 May under the ‘partner of a student or work visa holder’. To be granted an exception under this criteria, the principal work or student visa holder must be in New Zealand. As both Belen and Hardeep are currently offshore, an exception was not granted.

"Belen and Hardeep have since made a number of requests for a border exception under the ‘humanitarian’ criteria for themselves and their one-year-old child. Each of these requests were assessed against the relevant criteria, however no requests resulted in an exception being granted as they do not meet the high bar required for the border exception under humanitarian grounds.

"Immigration New Zealand understands the impact Covid-19 and the border restrictions have had on some migrants and their loved ones," the spokesperson said.