Coronavirus: 148 refugees stuck in Mangere amid COVID-19 lockdown

More than a hundred refugees are stuck in Mangere with their resettlement plans in limbo because of the virus.

Among them is the family of a young boxer from Afghanistan, who's already waited six years to be reunited.

The name Ali Madad Mashal may be familiar - he spoke to Newshub in October about his dream of becoming a champion boxer.

He fled war-torn Afghanistan by himself when he was just 15, ending up in an Indonesian detention centre. He arrived in New Zealand a year ago, and turned to boxing while waiting for his family to join him.

"When I miss my family, you know what I do? When I miss my family I come beat the bag and I just feel a little bit good and that's why I love to box," Ali told Newshub in October.

The 21-year-old is still boxing, but his training looks a little different under lockdown rules.

And he still misses his family, though they are a little closer now. His mother and two younger brothers arrived here in January, and Ali took an overnight bus to Auckland to meet them.

"And when they arrive, I surprise them," he laughed. "I am so happy to have them here."

But their plans to move to Wellington are on hold thanks to COVID-19 - so boxing continues to be a comfort for Ali.

"It is quite hard. In this situation we need each other to stay, because I stay by myself," he said. 

Ali's family aren't the only ones with resettlement plans on hold - 148 new arrivals are isolating at the refugee centre in Mangere.

"People usually go there for six weeks to do orientation, but now that's got an indefinite timeframe until the lockdown is over," said Rachel O'Connor, NZ Red Cross general manager of migration.

For refugee families already living in communities, volunteers are coming up with creative ways to keep in touch.

"One family I am helping out with I spend a couple of hours a day on WhatsApp with the daughter - takes a bit of pressure off them a bit," volunteer Julie Williams said.

For Ali, boxing takes the pressure off.

"I try my best to keep going, and that's my dream - nothing can stop me," he said.

And he's one step closer to another dream: to have his family ringside while he vies for a national boxing title.