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Stranded Kiwi journalist offered asylum

Pregnant Kiwi journalist Charlotte Bellis has been offered asylum by another country since going public about her struggle to secure a place at MIQ so she can return to New Zealand to give birth.

Speaking to RNZ overnight from Kabul, she did not name the country but said it was sad that hers was preventing her from returning home.

“It’s really sad. I was so proud for so long to be New Zealander, at the start of the pandemic,” she said.

“We care for each other, we are empathetic, we get things done. It feels like such a breach of trust. I’m one of you and I need help.”

Bellis’ pregnancy was going well. “I can feel her kicking, so that’s exciting,” she told RNZ.

“And we haven’t really had any major issues along the way.”

Bellis’ friend and public relations agent, Gemma Ross, confirmed that a second country – not Afghanistan – had offered asylum.

“There has been some outreach, but we’ve been asked to keep it confidential at this point,” Ross said. The New Zealand Herald.

She also said the journalist had been inundated with messages and offers of help from around the world since going public with her story, but they had heard nothing from the New Zealand government.

It is understood that other Kiwis have gifted their MIQ vouchers to Bellis, but this is not allowed under current MIQ rules.

A Christchurch native and former Al Jazeera reporter, Bellis made international headlines from Kabul on the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan last year.

In September, she found out she was pregnant at her home in Doha, Qatar. It is illegal to be pregnant and single in the Muslim country.

His partner Jim Huylebroek, photographer for The New York Timeswas in Kabul.

Unable to make it to New Zealand through the MIQ system, they traveled to Huylebroek’s home country of Belgium, from where Bellis repeatedly tried to secure a place in the MIQ but failed at the lottery.

They were relieved when the government announced that MIQ would end for New Zealanders in February and foreigners in April, meaning they could both return in time for the birth in May.

Bellis then took the extraordinary step of contacting the Taliban to see if she could safely return to Afghanistan. Key Taliban contacts said yes, and she’s been in Kabul ever since.

With the reopening of the New Zealand border delayed, she applied for an emergency place at the MIQ, but was rejected on January 24.

“We had submitted 59 documents to Immigration New Zealand and the MIQ, from ultrasounds proving the due date to a letter from the obstetrician talking about the impact of stress on a pregnant woman and her baby. You name it, bank statements , proof of my resignation and that I had to leave Qatar, I had everything,” she told RNZ.

MIQ chief Chris Bunny said the process was “fair and consistent”, and although the application was initially rejected, the team stayed in touch with Bellis to offer assistance with a re-application.