Auckland (Kanwalpreet Kaur Pannu) - "Two & Half Years," still stuck offshore, still waiting, stressed, frustrated, and worried; still no answer, no announcement, no update, no clarity from the New Zealand government.
Mandeep Kumar is one of the offshore stuck migrants. An information and communications technology technician, Mandeep had lived in New Zealand since 2013 and never visited his family in India until 2020. He would not have expected the outcome when he planned to go to India in 2020 to get married. He went to India for his marriage when New Zealand closed its borders to all non-residents and noncitizens. Unfortunately, he got stuck, and his visa got expired while waiting.
His journey itself speaks itself that he is badly affected by the situation.
Like many other international students, Mandeep took an education loan to come to New Zealand as an international student in 2013. He studied for two years and obtained one year of graduate job search visa. During this time, he got a job related to his studies, and his employer assisted him with a further two years of work visa, which was further extended to three years as he continued his job with the same employer.
As per Indian traditions, his family found a suitable match for him and planned his wedding in February 2020; therefore, he went to India in January 2020. He is still stuck. When New Zealand opened its borders for essential visa holders, he applied for exemption various times but was declined.
Earlier this week, Gaurav Sharma, Member of Parliament, questioned the Minister of Immigration, Hon. Michael Wood about offshore stuck migrants, where the minister stated other visa options available and did not indicate any intention to extend their visas. This has put the offshore stuck migrants in a complicated situation because not everyone will be able to find a job and meet the requirements.
Mandeep gets emotional while describing his situation in 2016 as he was almost ready to apply for his residency when NZ immigration changed the rules. Sadly, he missed RV2021. If he were in the country, he would have been eligible under RV2021. Mandeep urges the NZ government to consider their situation on humanitarian grounds and allow them to return to the country. The offshore stuck
migrants can fill the labour shortage gap by having the necessary qualifications, experience, and cultural understanding.