Kiwi-Palestinians trying to get family out of Gaza left confused by Government's mixed messages

Protesters confronted Immigration Minister Erica Stanford after a meeting on Sunday.

They're urging the Government to create a special category visa.

Heba El-Hanafy's family are currently in Gaza. She is one of many Palestinian people in New Zealand trying to get their family out of the besieged enclave.

Her sister and dozens of other family members were killed in an Israeli airstrike.

"She was killed with her four children. With her mother-in-law. Her sister-in-law as well as her three kids," said El-Hanafy.

Her 28-year-old nephew was also killed.

"He was so lovely. He was my close friend. We spent time together when I was in Gaza in March 2023," said El-Hanafy.

With more than 30,000 Palestinian people killed by Israeli bombardment and half a million facing starvation, she's desperate to get her remaining family out.

"I am dreaming of bringing my mother and sister here," El-Hanafy said.

The current pathway for Palestinians-Kiwis to get family over here is to apply for temporary or visitor visas.

Immigration lawyer Pooja Sundar said the current visa pathway can cause confusion.

"Visitor visas have a requirement to show that the person applying for them will return home, which doesn't make sense if you're running away from conflict. The whole point of it is to join family that you have here," Sundar said.

Community leader Taimor Hazou said they haven't had the chance to get clarification around what visas they can apply for.

"The Minister is not even answering our phone calls, our emails. We've had community members actually called up and told that if they keep calling up, they're going to be forwarded to the Police. So they're not even willing to have the conversation with Palestinian-Kiwis."

The Minister has previously said on TVNZ's Q+A that she was considering creating a Special Category Visa, but in a statement to Newshub, Erica Stanford said she wasn't.

In a statement to Newshub, Stanford said it's not strictly a visa issue.

"Palestinians are physically unable to get out of Gaza because of the escalating crisis."

Thirty out of 61 applications to get family out of Gaza have been granted but little is being done to get them out.

Hazou is calling for the Government to put pressure on Israel to let them out.

In a statement to Newshub, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said they had assisted a small number of immediate family members to leave via the Rafah Crossing.

The Ministry also said they were currently seeking approval from relevant authorities in the region for four people to exit Gaza.

For now, many are left hoping their family members stay alive long enough to be reunited.