Jacinda Ardern sidesteps discussion on Ukrainian family facing controversial deportation

A Ukrainian family facing deportation has won over many New Zealanders with their story, but Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was careful not to jump on the bandwagon today - emphasising to TVNZ1's Breakfast that she is limited in what she can reveal about their case while it is being considered.

The Shchetkovas, who own popular restaurant La Vista in Auckland's Saint Heliers, arrived in New Zealand six years ago on a long-term business visa.

However, Immigration New Zealand has recently declined their residency, saying their new business was not approved and was not considered to be of "significant value to New Zealand", RNZ reported last week.

In a statement, INZ said the business did not add significant benefit to New Zealand by creating sustained and on-going employment over and above the existing level of employment.

    Your playlist will load after this ad

    The Shchetkova’s have been in New Zealand for six years, believe they make a contribution and want to stay. Source: Seven Sharp

    It said the family should make arrangements to leave by July 1, including selling the business if necessary, RNZ reports.

    The family believes the decision was "an oversight" and wants the organisation to use common sense and let them stay.

    "They're not currently being deported, they have valid visas that take them through to the middle of the year," Ms Ardern insisted today when pressed on the case by Breakfast host Jack Tame. "I understand that they're actually still in the middle of the process."

    To date, the family's case had been dealt with solely by INZ, but the family has since made a claim to take the case to the ministerial level, the PM added.

    "Now that it's at that level, things get a little more complicated in what I can say," she said. 

    The family applied for visas under the entrepreneur category, which Ms Ardern described as having strict criteria to meet - the reason being so that buying businesses is not a default way into New Zealand.

      Your playlist will load after this ad

      The Shchetkova family love New Zealand, but might have to leave for what they call an oversite by the organisation. Source: Breakfast

      "It's looking for that extra additional employment - you're creating new jobs not just maintaining existing ones - that you're generating a value for New Zealand," she said.

      The family told Breakfast last week their business has 17 full-time staff, up from the nine there were when they bought it, and last year the business made a turnover of $1.6 million.

      So far, 11,402 people have signed a petition, set up by ACT Party leader David Seymour, in support of the family.

        Your playlist will load after this ad

        The Prime Minister told TVNZ1’s Breakfast the family isn’t being deported yet, and the decision is with the immigration minister. Source: Breakfast