Wānaka family separated by ongoing repatriation struggles
Posted at 6:00am Thursday 11 Jun, 2020 | By Joanna Perry email@example.com
A Wānaka family has been separated after a family visit left Renata Kost and her three-year-old son Gabi struggling to return to New Zealand and her husband.
The pair flew to Brazil in February and were due to return to Wānaka in March, but the travel restrictions caused by the coronavirus outbreak forced them into lockdown where they were.
Kost, a house painter who has lived in Wānaka for the last two years, is on a sponsored work visa and had to apply for an exemption to re-enter New Zealand after border admission was restricted to residents and New Zealanders only. After several attempts, Kost was granted an exemption, but missed her repatriation flight at the start of May.
Although booked on a commercial flight on June 14, she is still waiting for a transit visa and quarantine exemption for the 20-hour stopover it will make in Australia.
In the meantime, her husband Riki Pereira, remains in Wānaka. “Riki is very, very sad because he is alone and he has a very good relationship with Gabi, so it has been very hard for us,” said Kost. “Gabi is crying every single night asking for his daddy.”
“The Brazilian government doesn't want to help us because we are in Brazil,” she said.
Kost's plight is one of many ongoing coronavirus repatriation struggles - both to and from New Zealand. In March, a petition to bring Kiwis home from Latin America reached over 6,000 signatures when many were left stranded in Peru. A repatriation flight on April 15 proved too late for 49-year-old Edward Storey, who died of coronavirus in Cusco in the days before it flew.
Kost said she knew of 63 Kiwis still stuck in Brazil, and 45 Brazilians with New Zealand residency or permission to enter the country.
She was also aware of many Brazilians in Queenstown who had lost their jobs and wanted to return to South America, but found themselves facing the same difficulties arranging flights. She was asking Brazilian authorities to arrange a repatriation flight that could benefit both parties.
On the other side of the Pacific, New Zealand citizen and Queenstown resident Luana Goncalves has written to the Brazilian Embassy in Wellington to request repatriation on behalf of 153 Brazilians in New Zealand..
According to Goncalves, founder of the Brazilians in Queenstown Facebook group, a single repatriation flight from New Zealand to Brazil took around 20 Queenstown residents home in April, but many Brazilian migrants and tourists were not made aware of this flight.
In her letter of June 5, Goncalves said 80 of the 153 she represented were based in Queenstown, and 6 in Wānaka. Alongside working holiday and sponsorship visa holders, the list also included 41 tourists, 3 pregnant women, and 21 students. Only 25 were receiving the coronavirus wage subsidy and 17 the Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC) welfare support.
“The Brazilian Embassy has funds to help Brazilians with these needs, but these will not last forever, and neither will support from New Zealand agencies,” said Goncalves, noting that many would not be able to afford a commercial flight when border restrictions eased. “The best option for these people...is to be repatriated to Brazil, as there they have their families who will help them start their lives again,” she said.
As yet, she has received no response to her letter.
In the meantime, the NZ government continues to advise New Zealanders overseas to either remain where they are, or seek to return home commercially. Immigration NZ announced that they would send “a team of staff to support migrant workers and employers in Queenstown as some prepare to lose the wage subsidy,” in what Mayor Jim Boult identified as a growing humanitarian crisis in April.
Jack Barlow, spokesperson for Queenstown Lakes District Council, confirmed this week that almost 7,000 individuals had requested support through the council's welfare system.
Read edition 978 of the Wānaka Sun here.