Worried expats in London trying to get home

By Marena Mane

A total of 150,000 people have returned to New Zealand from overseas and made their two-week stay at managed Isolation hotels since March of last year. 

However, frustration has reached a breaking point for many New Zealanders living abroad who are trying to return home as the pandemic continues to spike in other countries. 

They are concerned websites offering automated scripts are taking over the booking system for managed isolation and nabbing the available spots for the rest of the year.

Charles Panapa, of Ngāti Maniapoto, is a production manager in London, and a member of Ngāti Ranana. He says people who want to travel home from London cannot do so until the end of the year to get a spot in a managed isolation quarantine hotel. 

“I think the thing that we need to remember now is that most of the people from New Zealand, trying to get home now aren’t random travellers who are stuck abroad. They are actually long-term emigrants who are making the big decision to move back home now and so it's been quite hard for people who have made that decision to finally get back home.” 

Living hand to mouth

“The thing that really annoys me is that at the end of the day, I'm still a New Zealander, I'm still from Ngāti Maniapoto, I’m still Te Atiawa. It makes an ‘us’ and ‘them’ situation which, to be quite frank, feels a little bit colonialistic,” Panapa says.

 “You've got on one side the UK government saying, ‘Oh, well, your time's running out so you need to either apply for another visa or go back home.’ And then you've got the New Zealand government saying, ‘oh well you can't come back until you book MIQ, and the waiting list is going to be five, six, seven months.” 

The UK government has extended visas for Kiwis who can’t go home but those visas don’t give Kiwis access to public funds. “Many people haven’t been able to access financial assistance."

“That's the tough thing over here because a lot of people have been put on furlough, or have had to just live hand to mouth or from couch to couch.”