The Chief Ombudsman Peter Boshier says he is considering doing an independent review of the managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) booking system following an “unprecedented” number of complaints over the past few weeks.
In a statement today, Boshier went into detail about the surge, saying since 1 July 2020 he’s received 700 border-related complaints.
"I have received unprecedented numbers of complaints about the MIQs, with many people complaining about the booking system," Boshier says.
"People have been complaining to me about border exemption decisions and MIQs since these were set up,” he said.
"Since mid-June, I have seen a new type of complaint emerge - people who are missing out on getting a space in an MIQ - and the number of upset people is increasing. In the past six weeks, I have received 67 complaints on this issue alone, with more being received daily."
"The sheer number complaints indicate a growing frustration with the MIQ booking system," Boshier says, adding, "I am keen to get to the bottom of this."
He says he has met with the chief executive of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) to alert her to the complaints he has been receiving and to seek further information.
"I want to make sure those returning to New Zealand are being treated fairly."
‘I am now considering my options, including whether to do a broader independent review of the issue."
"In the meantime, my consideration of individual complaints will continue."
New advice on how the Ombudsman can assist people wanting to complain about an MIQ is available on his website.
Boshier is also conducting independent inspections of MIQ facilities under the United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT).
"I established this inspection programme to provide the public and Parliament assurance that the basic human rights of people isolated for health reasons are being respected."
Today he has released a thematic report covering his first six inspections conducted in the Auckland and Rotorua regions late last year.
"This report summarises what I observed during the early days of MIQs. They were being set up quickly. Throughout the Covid-19 crisis, managers and staff have needed to continuously adapt to a fast changing Covid environment," Boshier says.
All 27 recommendations made to the six facilities were accepted by MBIE, with MBIE noting the value of the inspections to support ongoing improvements.
"I am encouraged to learn that these recommendations have either been implemented or the work is underway."
However, Boshier remains concerned about the impact of frequently rotating staff on the management of the facilities. "I want to be assured returnees get consistent care and they won’t get this if facility managers are changing every six weeks."
He has also asked MBIE to keep him informed about the care of unaccompanied minors.
"Staff told my inspectors some children and young people were presenting with complex medical and psychosocial needs that staff felt ill-equipped to deal with."
He will be looking to ensure that the individual facilities have formal complaints systems in place.
"I will continue to monitor these facilities and I’ll be conducting follow up inspections to make sure changes are implemented."
MBIE have been approached for comment by 1 NEWS.