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New visa exceptions prioritise health workers, will keep thousands of migrant families separated

Hundreds of migrant families separated due to Covid-19 border closures are a step closer to being reunited after the government today announced new visa exceptions.

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The Government's announced new visa exceptions and while health workers are at the front of the queue, thousands of others will still be left waiting. Source: 1 NEWS

With health workers at the front of the queue, thousands of others will still be left waiting.

Jaco Mienie hasn't seen his family in more than a year after moving to New Zealand from South Africa in February 2020.

Somebody filling a work visa application form to work in New Zealand. Source: istock.com

His wife and five-year-old daughter were set to join him, but now he's almost given up hope.

“Actually last week I was looking at buying one way flights back to South Africa, I was just at a point where i was going to give up and throw in the towel,” Mienie told 1 NEWS.

He's one of thousands of migrant workers in a desperate situation. A recent protest at Parliament aimed to put pressure on the government.

Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi says he realises the situation is “not easy”.

“We understand the difficulties that some families are going through,” he said.

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Currently there are around 6000 migrant health workers in New Zealand. Those without family in the country can now apply to bring them in.

So too are a small number of other critical workers.

About 450 families who were previously granted visas but didn't make it through the border in time have now been given the green light.

“There will still be some families despite the announcement today that will find themselves in difficult situations. we are constantly reviewing the settings at the border,” Faafoi said.

He admits there will be thousands who will miss out, including Mienie.

“We are at a point where we are saying to ourselves ‘is the reward really worth the sacrifice?’ especially with missing so much time of my daughter’s life,” Mienie said.

National says the Government needs to provide clear timelines.

“None of them want or expect to see their partners tomorrow they just want to know that it will happen in a period of time that's all they've wanted,” East Coast Bays MP Erica Stanford said.

There are further changes on the way. Next week the Government will announce how it will allocate managed isolation spaces freed up through the opening of the trans-Tasman bubble, but it comes with a warning there are no guarantees.

“We are trying to manage expectations and also the capacity of us to bring people through managed isolation which is limited,” Faafoi said.