MIQ causes grief to New Zealanders around the world, but not everyone has such a hard time securing places, reports Dileepa Fonseka
Brett Smith, an academic in the University of Waikato’s Faculty of Health, is waiting for his lotto numbers to be released.
“The stress of regularly applying to come home is life threatening. It can actually become global, because it is a constant in your life. “
Smith normally lives in Hamilton, but traveled to the Tokyo Olympics with the Australian Olympic team as part of his work as a health specialist.
Everything would have been fine while the Trans-Tasman bubble was open, he could have quarantined in Australia and then jumped through, but the bubble collapsed while he was in Asia.
Now he’s sitting in a Canberra apartment normally reserved for Australian rowers. He supports the quarantine of people and knows there are more hopeless cases than his, which is why he only tries the lottery but never files an emergency MIQ spot request.
It’s still difficult. His wife is in high demand, his father is in the hospital, and his mother broke down in tears when she realized that the only way Smith could get home would be if her father died.
Government says managed isolation (MIQ) has kept New Zealand safe, keeping people like Smith out, and that it only functions as a tightly controlled system that cannot be changed .
There is a fixed number of rooms available, and the supply is regulated by a lottery system.
On top of that is an emergency allowance system where people can request rooms if they are in a certain specified emergency set.
The criteria for these emergencies began with a single sentence: “You can apply for an emergency allowance if you are a New Zealand citizen or holder of a resident visa who presents an imminent threat to your life or a serious risk. for health, which requires urgent travel. in New Zealand.
Now it has expanded to three different categories, including providing intensive care, death, or where there is a serious risk to health and / or safety.
Immigration Advisor Katy Armstrong
currently working with a 38-year-old mother of three with cancer; she wants to leave New Zealand for medical treatment in Mexico which is not available here.
Armstrong is familiar with the immigration bureaucracy in New Zealand. She has spent much of the last year fighting for border exceptions for migrants stranded abroad, but MIQ is a separate entity from Immigration NZ.
However, Armstrong sees similarities between the Managed Isolation Emergency Allowance (MIQ) system and the system for trying to get exemptions for migrants wishing to return.
“You don’t really have a reason, you’re just being told ‘no’.”
New Zealand Initiative chief economist Eric Crampton said the MIQ was still going to ‘suck’ as the supply stood still.
Normally, if something was in high demand, the price would go up and people would build more. In this case, the government does not allow anyone to provide more supply.
However, he sees problems in the way the government grants itself MIQ places and border exceptions to itself and privileged business groups. Do all sports teams and exporters really need all of these niches, and do they really need them more than another company elsewhere?
He points out a border exception given to a nutritionist for one of the America’s Cup teams and asks if that person was really worth more than someone else that we could have let across the border for him. .
Crampton argues that these types of MIQ allocations, to industry, should be decided by auction, in the same way we would expect people to bid for the rarer resources.
“Prove to us that this is the most important thing in the world with your offer. “
He argues that auctioning spaces, while providing free vouchers for off-peak MIQs to citizens, is much fairer than leaving the lobbying to different industry groups.
“I consider it just horribly unfair, it’s political attraction and political patronage that determines the results, and it looks worse than money to allocate things.”
Armstrong’s sees that the entire MIQ system has turned the country into one surrounded by two main walls.
The first wall is the government itself, and all the lobbying you need to do to be allowed in, which could be an immigration exception to let workers cross the border, or even an MIQ slot itself.
Then there is another interior wall, the managed isolation system itself: MIQ.
“The lotto is great, if you happen to win the lotto,” says Armstrong.
Smith argues that the injustice of a lottery is that it does not prioritize out of need. It doesn’t even prioritize how long you’ve been waiting for a slot.
“I have to travel for work, it’s not like I have a choice, because of my unique field.”
This is Frances Joychild QC’s criticism of the system. How can it not offer any means for citizens to return to the country, even if they meet the emergency criteria? And if he doesn’t provide them with automatic lanes, then how can he provide them to certain industries and certain departments?
“The government may have to prioritize, but what I’m saying is it’s wrong,
“They should have affected a specific number of people coming back for humanitarian reasons, instead you have people in a lotto system with the most serious humanitarian reasons.”
Joychild knows how difficult it can be to secure an emergency slot, she filed a lawsuit on behalf of New Zealand citizen Bergen Graham who was stuck in the United States with a high risk pregnancy and without a valid visa, or the ability to pay for medical treatment in the United States.
“They wrote to her and said ‘no you don’t have an urgent need to come back to New Zealand, you just choose to have your baby in New Zealand’.”
Other countries have had to accept the return of their citizens even as a global pandemic rages on, and she argues that if New Zealand does not, it surely owes financial support to those overseas who do not. can’t get by.
Smith illustrates the priority issue through a friend of his who got a spot in the same lottery he was in, and his friend only planned to visit family for two weeks, while Smith planned to stay in. New Zealand.
“I know a lot of other people talk about home segregation and things like that… my argument has always been about the fairness of the [Managed Isolation Allocation System], not the need to do MIQ.