Hard wait for South African family in 'limbo'

OPPORTUNITY: Cherie Vermaak has been given one last chance to stay in New Zealand.
OPPORTUNITY: Cherie Vermaak has been given one last chance to stay in New Zealand.

Members of a South African family who have been unlawfully living in Christchurch for the past seven weeks are still waiting to hear if they will be deported.

The plight of Cherie Vermaak, 42, and her two children appeared in The Press on May 12.

The single mother had worked for Christchurch City Council for four years but lost her job in March when her application for a work visa extension was declined by Immigration New Zealand (INZ).

She was forced to sell her furniture to feed her children and said imminent deportation was more frightening than sleeping on the streets in Christchurch.

The family had been left in "limbo" since their visa extensions had been declined, she said.

INZ contacted Vermaak last Friday to ask her questions.

"We have got no idea what they will decide or when we will hear. Just sitting here waiting for the call is so hard," she said.

"We had a really bad weekend. I had a meltdown and the kids aren't doing too well any more. It's getting to a crucial point now."

Her 16-year-old daughter, Zelda, was forced to quit her last year at Burnside High School when her visa expired.

Son Kyle, 19, could not secure a job without a visa.

The family's ordeal started after they received a request from INZ for a renewal of police clearances and medical checks two days before their visas expired.

Vermaak begged for an extension but was told by INZ "it wasn't their policy to renew a visa without updated documents".

She had originally provided INZ with police clearances in 2009, two years after the family moved to New Zealand.

"The police clearances will be exactly the same; nothing would have changed. We haven't been back to South Africa since we arrived," she said. To obtain new police clearances from South Africa would cost her about $450.

INZ said an immigration officer would contact Vermaak in the next few days.

The Press