- Victims of the terrorist attacks at two New Zealand mosques and their families can now apply for permanent residency in the country, regardless of their nationality.
- The government said that the new visa is in response to “the impact of the tragedy on the lives of those most affected” and said it would give people “certainty” about their status in New Zealand.
- Some survivors had feared that they could be deported after their study or work visas expire or said that their visas were tied to work that they could no longer do after the deadly attack.
- New Zealand’s immigration minister said the government felt the new visas were right to introduce “given the enormity of the circumstances.”
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New Zealand is offering permanent residency to foreign victims of a terrorist attack at two Christchurch mosques and their families after many feared they could be deported after their study or work visas expire.
New Zealand announced on Tuesday that it was creating a special visa category for people who were “directly affected” by the attacks, which killed 50 people in March, and that people can now apply.
“This new visa category recognizes the impact of the tragedy on the lives of those most affected, and gives people currently on temporary and resident visas some certainty about their immigration status in New Zealand,” a government statement said. It expects that the new visa will affect around 190 people.
The government said: “People living in New Zealand who were present at one of the mosques and their immediate family based in New Zealand can get this visa.”
“Because of the special circumstances, the definition of immediate family has been expanded to include a wider circle of family members.”
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50 people were killed and 50 more injured when a gunman opened fire in the Al Noor and Linwood mosques on March 15. Victims came from a number of countries, including Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Turkey, Bangladesh, Jordan, and Indonesia.
Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway told Radio New Zealand’s “Morning Report” that the government felt the new visa was necessary “given the enormity of the circumstances, the fact that they were victims of a deliberate attack that was designed to cause maximum harm and trauma.”
He said the visa is “part of our response as a nation to give them the certainty about being able to live in New Zealand.”
Survivors had expressed concern about their status in New Zealand after the attack.
Tofazzal Alam, a 26-year-old from Bangladesh who has lived in New Zealand for five years, said that he was unsure over whether he could stay in New Zealand as his visa is dependent on him working as a door-to-door salesman, which he can no longer do since the attack, The New York Times reported.
He said that he could not eat or sleep normally after the attack, and the stress over his visa made this worse.
He described himself as a “people person” but said “now I feel afraid of strangers. I can only talk to people or meet people whom I know.”
He said the new visa would allow him and other survivors to contribute more to New Zealand: “We have got so much love and respect for this country.”
“We have many things to give back.”