Labour is calling on the Government to assist with helping close family members of New Zealanders stuck in Gaza escape as Australia is doing so for its own residents.
It comes after reports New Zealander Alya Hammad has written to Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters asking the Government to add the names of her non-Kiwi family members to a list of people being allowed to escape Gaza at the Rafah border crossing into Egypt.
It has been reported the NZ Embassy in Cairo told Hammad they can’t add her family to the New Zealand list without a directive from the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Labour’s immigration spokesperson Phil Twyford said the Government should follow the example of Australia and help New Zealanders’ close family members stuck in Gaza to escape and take shelter here.
“New Zealanders with family members trapped in Gaza will be distraught that their relatives are in an active war zone. The Government should help the families of Kiwis to get out, by putting their names on the list at the Rafah border crossing,” Twyford said.
“The Government should also do what Australia is doing and provide visas so those family members, once they get out of Gaza, can come to New Zealand and shelter with family here.”
The call comes as Israel continues heavy bombardment in southern Gaza, after a humanitarian truce lapsed on Friday.
Israel has vowed to eliminate Gaza’s Hamas rulers, whose October 7 attack on Israel killed some 1200 people, mostly civilians, and triggered the deadliest Israeli-Palestinian violence in decades.
The war has already killed thousands of Palestinians and displaced over three-fourths of the territory’s population of 2.3 million people. Palestinian health officials say bombardment has killed several hundred civilians since a week-long truce ended on Friday.
So far, the New Zealand Government has assisted 19 New Zealanders (11 citizens and eight permanent residents) to escape Gaza via the Rafah crossing to Egypt.
- Dame Jacinda Ardern calls for 'humanity approach' to Israel-Hamas war
- 'No military solution': NZ calls for humanitarian pause in fighting in Gaza
- Concern over lack of NZ political response to Israel-Hamas war
Five of these permanent residents escaped through the Rafah crossing last night.
Israeli soldiers near the border with the Gaza Strip. Photo / AP
The Australian Government has granted hundreds of temporary visas to Palestinians with family connections in Australia in the weeks since the bombing in Gaza began.
Twyford said that, as in the cases of Afghanistan and Ukraine, New Zealand should expand the criteria of those who could come here.
“We showed with the evacuation of Kabul that we can act decisively to save people at risk. And in the case of Ukraine we gave the family members of Kiwis who were in a war zone the chance to take shelter with their families in New Zealand.
“There is no reason the Government should not now do the same for the families of Kiwis stuck in Gaza.
“Ultimately, we want to see a just and lasting peace that recognises the existence and self-determination of Israelis and Palestinians. We encourage the parties to work to a two-state solution within secure and recognised borders where all citizens enjoy equal rights and freedoms.”
Take your Radio, Podcasts and Music with you