Politics | Gaza

Seven times more Israeli nationals than Palestinian nationals have had their NZ visas approved since October 7

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has confirmed that the applications received across both temporary and residence class visa categories from Israeli nationals are five times more than the same visas from Palestinian nationals. And visas approved for Israeli nationals are seven times more than for Palestinian nationals.

Te Ao News can reveal the exact number of visas from Immigration New Zealand when the atrocities by Hamas against Israelis began a new page for the long conflict between Israel and Palestinians.

Since October 7, Immigration has received 145 applications across both temporary and residence class visa categories for Israeli nationals, of which 64 have been approved, with 75 applications under assessment.

This is compared to 27 applications across both temporary and residence class visa categories for Palestinian nationals, of which nine have been approved, with 13 applications under assessment.

Immigration noted that the applications are from both onshore and offshore applicants. And whether applicants were coming out of Gaza is yet unknown according to Minister of Immigration Erica Stanford in Parliament on Wednesday.

But Simon Sanders, Acting Chief Operating Officer of Immigration, says “New Zealand is deeply distressed by the escalating crisis and loss of human life in the Israel-Gaza conflict. The Government is continuing to monitor the situation closely, along with our partners. New Zealand is supporting the humanitarian efforts of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the World Food Programme (WFP) to address the urgent humanitarian needs in Gaza.

We understand the difficult situation this crisis is causing for many, and have great sympathy for those separated from their loved ones during this stressful time,” says Sanders.

Since the conflict between Israel and Gaza started, Immigration New Zealand says they have put in place processes to ensure consistency and priority allocation for any applications received from people living in these locations.

The processes include all visitor visa general applications from Palestinian and Israeli nationals who are being processed in the same office and says a mailbox has been set up for applicants, who are seeking support through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT), to use to request prioritisation of applications. Almost 20,000 people mainly Palestinians have been killed in the Gaza Strip in nine weeks, with 70% of those killed have been women and children. And now 1.9 million people have been displaced; this is over 85% of the total population of Gaza.

Sanders says they have been providing case-by-case advice and support to MFAT for New Zealand citizens and permanent residents attempting to leave Gaza and travel to New Zealand.

Te Ao News understands that MFAT has assisted 20 individuals to leave Gaza and those individuals are New Zealand citizens, permanent residents, and family members (spouses or dependent children).

An MFAT spokesperson says, “Securing approvals for individuals to exit Gaza is a complex process, requiring approval from both Israel and Egypt and providing assurances to the Egyptian government that those we support will leave Egypt within 72 hours.”

Immigration minister Erica Stanford confirmed this “I have been assured by the Minister of Foreign Affairs that all New Zealand citizens and permanent residents who wanted to leave Gaza have now left and this was a priority for the new Government.”

Discussion on whether the government will give a special category visa to Palestinians like what Ukrainians received in 2022 was also discussed, with the Minister citing that Ukraine was in a different situation as the previous Government was able to work with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and with international partners to get refugees out.

However, Sanders says, “Any decisions on changes to immigration policy settings would be a matter for the Government.”

“Ukraine was a unique situation given the size, scale, and nature of the conflict, and the fact that the UNHCR was unable to refer people to New Zealand through our refugee quota, which meant there were no existing pathways for Ukrainian refugees. Afghanistan was also another situation where unique circumstances required a targeted approach as Afghan nationals were at risk of harm due to their work for the New Zealand Defence Force and other agencies in Afghanistan”, says Sanders.

The primary way New Zealand provides support for international refugee situations is through the Refugee Quota, with an annual quota of 1500 people per annum. Refugees are accepted through the Refugee Quota and are referred to Immigration NZ by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Immigration NZ also contributes to international peacekeeping and disarmament and to funding humanitarian aid through the United Nations and NGOs.

On 13 December the Prime Ministers of Australia, Canada, and New Zealand made a joint statement wanting to see a pause resumed in Gaza and support urgent international efforts toward a sustainable ceasefire.