Thousands of split migrant families missing out despite changes to immigration settings

As Newshub revealed on Sunday, the Government has announced hundreds of split migrant families will be reunited under changes to immigration settings. 

It has been a long, heart-breaking wait for many families Newshub has spoken to. But the wait goes on for thousands more families who will still miss out. 

The last time Newshub spoke to Priyanka Sunny, happiness seemed impossible due to a crushing year apart from her husband and son. 

"Every day I'm struggling to cope with the situation," she said earlier this year. 

On Monday, two months on, laughter replaced her tears. 

"It's made my day," she said after the Government's announcement. "Oh my god, I don't know how to express those feelings but I'm so glad I can finally meet my son."

She's one of the many nurses Newshub has spoken to who were caught by an anomaly that meant they couldn't bring their families to New Zealand - an anomaly finally fixed.

"We have to balance the capacity of managed isolation and the health risk of allowing a relatively large number of more people to come in from overseas," Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi said on Monday. 

The three new border exemptions are for:

  • families offshore who had visas but didn't make it in before the borders shut - about 450 people
  • highly-skilled, specialist workers who earn over $107,000 -  just dozens eligible
  • critical healthcare workers - the exact figure's unknown, hundreds will likely qualify

But far more split migrant families remain separated. The Immigration Minister said he doesn't know the exact figure, but he estimates it could be thousands. 

Official information obtained by Newshub shows it's close to 3000, and behind every single one is a story of heartbreak.

Jaco Mienie hasn't seen his wife and five-year-old daughter since February last year. Despite his skills as a construction foreman which are definitely needed during a housing and construction crisis, his family isn't eligible. 

"I don't think we can take much more," he says. 

Faafoi acknowledges families are struggling. 

"None of these decisions are easy. They are all difficult and they will continue to put people in difficult situations," he says. 

National's immigration spokesperson Erica Stanford says split migrant families need more assurances from the Government. 

"Give those split migrant families some form of light at the end of the tunnel," she says.

"Hey, we know that you're there, we care about you, and there some form of roadmap to reunification for you and your families. 

"The fact is today, a lot of those people were completely ignored."

Faafoi has promised to consider further exemptions if there are enough spots in managed isolation. But he won't put a date on it and it's that uncertainty which is too much to bear for families already split for over a year.