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“Stuck in the United States”: a sailor from the South still cannot get a place at the MIQ

Southern sailor Bruce Blackburn managed to leave the logging vessel he had been stranded on for several weeks without being able to secure an emergency quarantine place in New Zealand.

However, his luck has not changed for the better.

The Otago Daily Schedules highlighted Mr Blackburn’s fate last month, after having to return to New Zealand for urgent back surgery, but was declared ineligible by directors of MIQ, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and ‘Employment (MBIE) for emergency medical exemption to obtain a place of quarantine.

After several weeks stuck aboard his last contracted ship trying to negotiate a way home, he has now reached dry land in the United States, but only because he needed dental surgery from emergency.

“I was taken off the boat in Sacramento to be taken to San Francisco for urgent dental work, which resulted in surgery and removal of the teeth.

“I am now stranded in the United States on a limited-time B1 emergency visa, which expires October 20, and U.S. Customs and Border Police have notified me that I will likely be arrested on October 21 as a time overrun. “

He didn’t want to renew his temporary US visa and just wanted to return home before being deported, he said.

If he were deported and subsequently found unable to enter the United States, he would have a hard time finding work in his field anywhere else in the world, Mr. Blackburn said.

The sailor, who has been bombarding the MBIE with requests for an emergency MIQ slot for several weeks, remains locked in a battle with the department, which has turned down its numerous requests for emergency aid for not meeting its criteria.

In an MBIE email provided by Mr. Blackburn, his latest request was also not found favor.

“Although you have provided proof that your visa will expire on October 20, 2021, as explained above, visa expiration alone is not grounds for an emergency allowance,” MBIE said.

Instead, according to the required evidence stated above, the applicant must have attempted unsuccessfully to extend or convert their visa and have no choice but to return to New Zealand.


Mr Blackburn said the MBIE was applying relevant criteria to a tourist rather than a sailor and had requested that his request be reconsidered.

The MBIE told him it was doing its best to ensure that eligible people could return to New Zealand and he acknowledged that he might remain dissatisfied with the outcome of his application.

“You will need to obtain a managed isolation voucher through the standard process to facilitate your return to New Zealand,” he said.

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