Kiwi mother and daughter stuck in Iran plead for help from NZ Government - 'unable to afford warmth, food'

A Kiwi mother and daughter trapped in Iran after their holiday was affected by coronavirus restrictions are pleading with the New Zealand Government for help.

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A sudden ban on travel between cities in Iran has trapped them far from relatives in the nation’s capital. Source: 1 NEWS

Bushra Alkhafaji and her daughter Nada are New Zealand citizens who arrived in Iran in February for an annual trip, with flights paid for by Bushra's Iran-based daughters.

Ms Alkhafaji was warned by Work and Income her benefit would be suspended if she travelled overseas.

On a short visit to Isfahan during the holiday, Iran announced inter-city travel restrictions so Ms Alkhafaji and Nada were separated from relatives and had to find temporary accommodation.

"Right now it's a big struggle," 15-year-old Nada Alibrahimy said. "We're unable to go out and it's pretty dangerous and this coronavirus is kind of getting out of hand and we're running out of money. We're unable to afford a place to stay at soon and we're unable to afford warmth, food." 

Their flights home with Emirates have been cancelled twice, with the vast majority of airlines suspending flights to and from Iran.

Ms Alkhafaji has around $100 left as she'd budgeted for the six weeks of the planned trip. They can only afford to buy dinner each day.

The NZ embassy has withdrawn staff during the pandemic, and the embassy in Dubai was unable to help either, Miss Alibrahimy said.

"They're spreading around a message saying we help New Zealand citizens and that stuff but we're really questioning that... 'cause we're stuck here and we need help.

"We're begging for it and we're struggling."

Her Wellington-based sister, Sahra Alibrahimy, has also reached out to the consular emergency line and Work and Income.

"Every door I am trying to open is just getting shut in my face pretty much," Sahra Alibrahimy said.

The situation has also put her into financial hardship as she is paying for not only her rent and her child, but her mother's rent too.

"It's hard on me because I'm supposed to be the one that's supporting them and I'm not getting any support at the moment.

"I'm trying my best to look at the positive side but I don't know when I'm going to see my mum or my sister again," Ms Alibrahimy said.

Relatives in Iran cannot afford to support her mother and sister, she said.

"They can survive for one more week but I don't know what will happen after that," she said.

Migrant women advocacy group Shakti said in a statement it believes there are several hundred Kiwi citizens and resident families caught up in the same situation overseas.

"We would urge MSD to accord humanitarian consideration for such beneficiary families and restore respective on-going welfare benefit to those NZ citizens/residents stuck overseas and who are unable to return to New Zealand because of Covid-19 restrictions," a spokesperson said.

The Ministry of Social Development said Ms Alkhafaji's benefit will not be reinstated.

A spokesperson for the Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry said nearly 23,000 New Zealanders are registered as being overseas, with 23 in Iran.

"Although it is increasingly difficult to return to New Zealand, the Government remains committed to helping New Zealanders overseas," the spokesperson said in a statement.

"We appreciate the distress many New Zealanders and their families are facing from this unparalleled situation."

Foreign Minister Winston Peters said the Government is helping Kiwis stuck overseas wherever possible.

"Because these decisions are made by private airlines and other Governments and other legal systems, it's very difficult for foreign affairs to put the whole package together for everybody but we'll do what we can," he said.

"There are not just my mum or sister stuck in Iran, there are other New Zealanders that are stuck that I know of, but I just hope the New Zealand Government will have that mercy flight to Iran as well," Sahra Alibrahimy said.

"If anything can't happen... us coming back... we just want money to at least have things such as food, place to stay at and you know, stay safe around here," her sister Nada said.