High Court MIQ ruling: A huge decision, very emotional – advocate

By Giles Dexter of RNZ

Advocates for New Zealanders who were stuck overseas and unable to come home are welcoming a High Court ruling which found the Managed Isolation and Quarantine lottery system was unfair.

London-based Grounded Kiwis spokeswoman Alexandra Birt stayed up all night to hear the decision.

“To have recognition that the MIQ lottery was not justified, and was a flawed system that breached the rights of New Zealand citizens overseas, was obviously a huge decision, and very emotional,” she said.

Yesterday, the High Court found the MIQ lottery “did not sufficiently allow individual circumstances to be considered and prioritised”, and the emergency allocation categories were too tight.

Justice Mallon did find the requirement for returnees to undergo MIQ was lawful and was not an unjustified infringement of New Zealanders’ rights to come home.

But she said it was inevitable the system would operate unjustly when demand exceeded supply.

Dual New Zealand Bulgarian citizen Vanya Petkova tried six times to get a spot in MIQ, with no success.

“It’s very frustrating, it’s like you hope with all your soul to happen. It’s frustration, but then after that has come, angry,” she said.

Finally, on her seventh go, Petkova won the MIQ lottery.

She had strong words for those who came up with the idea.

“I just hope not to need any more of such a thing in my life, and hope people who have been unfair, and who breached our rights and made so many people in big trouble to get what they deserve,” she said.

Birt said the Government needed to apologise to people like Petkova.

“This whole time what we’ve been seeking is some recognition from the Government that the way the system operated did impact on people and was not a justified system.

“We’ve had that recognition now from the courts, and we’d hope that the Government would stand by that and say ‘yes, we could have done better’.”

ACT Party leader David Seymour said an apology, whether formal or informal, would go a long way.

“Unfortunately, increasingly it seems that everybody realises the Government’s done something wrong except the Government, who appear incapable of contrition.”

Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins acknowledged the court’s finding “for some citizens, the virtual lobby system as it operated between 1 September and 17 December 2021, may have infringed their right to enter New Zealand”.

In a statement, he said the Government was “carefully considering the court’s decision”.

National Party MP Chris Bishop said the Government should just accept it.

“They should not appeal, and they should apologise to everyone who’s been negatively affected by the extraordinary MIQ system that has now been judicially criticised.”

Grounded Kiwis’ Martin Newell told Checkpoint he wanted something more than an apology: An official inquiry.

“Whether it’s a royal commission of inquiry or some sort of independent inquiry, we need to sit down and look at the entire response and how we can do it better. Because this will not be the last pandemic, and we need to be prepared for when the next one comes,” he said.

Another group, Lobby New Zealand, is calling on the Government to make a Crown apology to all New Zealanders impacted by the MIQ system.

“The right to freely enter New Zealand is one of the most important tokens of New Zealand citizenship, and for the Government to constitute legal entry via means of a ‘lottery’ system was and remains a poor – and illegal – policy action,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

“Whether it’s New Zealanders trapped overseas on expired visas, pregnant Kiwis being denied entry, split migrant families, or Kiwis denied the ability to farewell dying family members, a Crown apology is justified given Justice Mallon’s ruling.”

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