New Zealand defends strict border control after a pregnant journalist had to turn to Taliban for help

A pregnant journalist from New Zealand said she was unable to return to her home country to give birth as the borders were closed amid the strict Covid-19 protocols. The New Zealand government has defended its strict quarantine system known as MIQ after hearing the news of the pregnant journalist. 

A journalist named Charlotte Bellis said she had to return to the Taliban for help after her requests to get back to her own country were rejected. Soon after the news, the New Zealand government came up with their opinion on this. Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said there was a place for “people with special circumstances” like Charlotte Bellis. 

Charlotte Bellis gained international attention in 2021 for questioning Taliban leaders about their treatment of women and girls. The pregnant journalist is due to give birth in May this year. Citing the issues with the government of New Zealand, the journalist said, the government had last week rejected her application to return home to give birth. 

Bellis said that the government asked for strange requests even not considering her as a pregnant lady. “You can come and you won’t have a problem. Just tell people you’re married and if it escalates, call us,” Bellis quoted the unnamed officials as saying in response to her request.

She resigned from Al Jazeera in November and had no choice but to leave Qatar, where sex outside marriage is illegal. When she accompanied her partner to his country Belgium, she was not able to stay there for a long period as she was not a resident of the country. She said the only other place the couple had visas to live was Afghanistan. 

Fearing the current situation of Afghanistan, she wished to come back to her home country New Zealand. However, she had sent 59 documents to New Zealand authorities in Afghanistan but they rejected her application for an emergency return. However, her story has also come under criticism from observers, rights activists and Afghans themselves.

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Since Ms. Bellis’ letter was published, there have been calls for New Zealand authorities to adjust the emergency quarantine allocation criteria to special care to pregnant women. However, Bellis said she signed up for a MIQ spot via the medical treatment pathway because it was how pregnant women were told to apply. She was then asked to reapply under a category designed for New Zealanders in a location or a situation where there was a serious risk to their safety, she said.