New Zealand/ 18 Abril 2021/ Source/ https://www.stuff.co.nz/
Por Kendall Hutt
Migrant teacher Alan Bowen has not seen his wife and two children for about 400 days.
When he arrived in the country on March 14, 2020, to take up a position as a maths teacher at Auckland’s Macleans College, his family were meant to be not far behind.
But five days later the border closed to all non-residents, and by March 26 the country was in lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Bowen said the last year has been the toughest in his life, separated from wife Loren, daughter Holly, 11, and son Jack, 15, who are in South Africa.
Bowen had sold the family home to offset costs and wife Loren has been unemployed since July.
On an essential skills work visa, he said he was supporting his family in South Africa and himself.
“They are taking enormous strain. They are heartbroken.”
Immigration New Zealand (INZ) said 49,984 people hold an essential skills visa – 890 of them are education professionals.
But the visas of about 145 education professionals will expire on or before December 31, 2021.
“An individual who wants to remain in New Zealand beyond the date of expiry of their current visa needs to apply for a new visa,” a spokeswoman said.
Bowen had submitted an expression of interest to become a resident through the Skilled Migrant Category visa, but the selection process has been frozen since April 2020 due to the pandemic.
The backlog stands at 7750 “expressions of interest” from people wanting to place residency applications.
Immigration NZ said it is currently reviewing the suspension.
Bowen said it had been “heart-wrenching” being separated from his family.
“Sometimes I do feel like I am losing hope, and I weep and cry.”
Fellow Macleans College maths teacher Carl Fourie feels like he is stuck in no man’s land.
“I feel like I have a foot in one country and another foot in the other, and you don’t know where you belong.”
On a work visa, Fourie wants to be a resident, but is facing the same problem as Bowen – he is stuck in the frozen “expressions of interest” pool.
He turns 56 in three months – INZ requires people to be 55 years or younger when their application is lodged.
Fourie said he left South Africa in “good faith”, being provided with an overseas relocation grant.
“The Government paid for me to get here and now everything is up in the air.”
A third staff member at Macleans College, maths teacher Lizzie Field, has until January next year before she has to return to the United Kingdom.
Like Bowen and Fourie, she’s submitted an expression of interest, but said the freeze on the pool was “frustrating” as the school were already thinking about 2021.
“I don’t want to go back.”
Macleans College principal Steven Hargreaves said if Bowen, Fourie and Field are not able to stay, it would be a loss to the school and the teaching profession.
Between them, they had about 50 years of maths experience.
“You can’t just find high quality, experienced maths teachers at the drop of the hat,” he said.
“I would need to be recruiting now.”
With maths a hard to staff area, Hargreaves said the school would likely have to get non-specialist teachers to fill any vacancies.
New Zealand Principals’ Federation president Perry Rush said he hoped the Government was doing everything it could to hold on to the teachers.
“Maths is one of our shortage areas. We really need to hold onto these teachers as much as we can.”
National’s immigration spokeswoman Erica Stanford said Bowen, Fourie and Field were the tip of the iceberg.
She said a number of teachers had been at a protest outside Parliament earlier this month about being separated from their families.
“Highly skilled and desirable people are going to be forced into a situation where they have to choose,” Stanford said.
“We asked them to come here, to help us in our time of need, and the way we repay them is putting them in a queue that’s not moving.”
Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi said he was keeping immigration settings under review and was making adjustments when and where possible.
He said he did not see the need for an inquiry into migrant issues caused by the border closure, as earlier called for by Stanford.