Migrant family that has lived in NZ since 2009 fights to come home amid border restrictions

Immigration New Zealand has been flooded with applications from people requesting exceptions at the border, with an extra 6500 in the last month alone.

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Among the extra 6000 applicants last month alone was a migrant family that has lived in New Zealand for 10 years. Source: 1 NEWS

It includes migrant workers and families who were overseas when the border shut. One family who has lived in New Zealand for over 10 years is stuck in South America.

“The whole situation is a nightmare - it's unfair,” Diego Rodriguez said.

Mr Rodriguez and wife Carolina moved here in 2009.

The couple’s two daughters, Olivia and Sophia, were born in New Zealand.  

Mr Rodriguez is an assistant farm manager working near Ashburton.

Farm manager Andrew Black said Mr Rodriguez was a vital member of the team.

“He's my right-hand man. He's the guy I depend on in the tough situations,” Mr Black said.

The family recently took a much-needed break, heading back to Colombia for the first time in six years.

Due to return in March, the border closure saw them locked out by a matter of hours.

“The lady at the check-in just said, 'No, you are not able to check in,'” Mr Rodriguez said.

To date, Immigration New Zealand has received just under 22,000 exception applications - up 6500 on last month.

So far, about 3500 applications were approved.

“Obviously, at the moment we are having to focus our efforts on making sure that permanent residents and citizens are able to come in,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.  

The family is now living off their savings and their employers said they should be allowed back.

Alison van Polanen, who runs the farm with husband Andrew, said the family is missed.

“We engaged with Immigration initially and about two months ago were invited to apply for an exception. So that's a process through MPI and MBIE and to date there's been no progress that we're aware of,” she said.

The Prime Minister today offered a glimmer of hope. 

“Many will be permanent residents and eligible to come in," Jacinda Ardern said.

"For those who are not but had lives here and have been caught offshore, they really are the next group that we want to work through."

However, she didn't indicate how quickly the changes would happen.