New Zealand journalist Charlotte Bellis has rejected a deal offered by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) that could have seen her return home from Kabul.
MBIE wants Bellis, who is pregnant, to apply as someone whose safety is seriously at risk instead of someone requiring access to time-critical medical treatment.
She's saying no and has an ally in National leader Christopher Luxon, but COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says there's a place in MIQ for people with special circumstances like her and he encourages her to take these offers seriously.
Bellis initially applied for a slot in MIQ under the category that she "requires access to time-critical medical treatment" because she's pregnant.
"I can't believe that we're in the middle of this and we're having to fight like we are," she said two days ago.
MBIE declined that application, saying the proposed date of her travel February 27 was too long after her application. Instead, the ministry's encouraging her to apply under a different category and that she's "in a location or situation where there is a serious risk to her safety and her only option is returning to New Zealand".
But Bellis rejects that because her safety was specifically guaranteed by the Taliban.
"And the suggestion that they have does not actually apply to her circumstances. So for her to even attempt to apply under that would simply be providing information that she doesn't have, can't have, or would know to be untrue," says Bellis' lawyer Tudor Clee.
Bellis has formally rejected the alternative offer, telling MBIE it doesn't apply to her situation.
"The cause for my return continues to be time-critical medical treatment that is unavailable or inaccessible in our current location. You have all our information. You know our situation," she wrote in a letter in response to MBIE.
Clee says by November there'd been over 250 pregnancy applications but only 10 percent had been approved.
"So ultimately what Charlotte's case shows is that unless you can get a lot of noise when you make that application, there's a fairly good chance it'll simply be declined out of hand irrespective of the material that you supply."
Clee says he has helped 30 women in the same boat as Bellis. Four cases went to court and he won them all.
Bellis now has the backing of National's Christopher Luxon.
"Charlotte Bellis is a no-brainer," he says.
And he wants to see all pregnant returning Kiwis exempted from the MIQ lottery.
"Charlotte's situation should be resolved as quickly as possible. But the bigger question is what are we going to do about all the other people who don't have the profile of Charlotte that are in exactly the same situation and that need an exemption that needs to be sorted quickly?"
Hipkins has issued a strongly-worded statement confirming there's a place in MIQ for people with special circumstances like Bellis - and that no one's saying there's not.
He says MBIE has encouraged her to move forward with her plans to return and he also encourages her to take the offer to apply under a different category seriously.
Hipkins says he understands she was twice offered New Zealand consular assistance since she returned to Afghanistan in early December but has not responded.
Again, he encourages her to take up any offers of assistance.