Eviction blow adds to visa woe

CRAMPED QUARTERS: Cherie Vermaak and her daughter Zelda and son Kyle are one appeal away from deportation to South Africa.
CRAMPED QUARTERS: Cherie Vermaak and her daughter Zelda and son Kyle are one appeal away from deportation to South Africa.

A South African family fighting deportation is now living in one bedroom after being told to move out of their flat.

The Press has been following the plight of Cherie Vermaak, whose nightmare began in March when she lost her job at Christchurch City Council after her application for a work visa extension was declined by Immigration New Zealand (INZ).

Last month, Vermaak's immigration agent, Mike Bell, offered her the job she needed to stay in the country, but INZ denied her visa. She was told she and her two children would be deported back to South Africa.

In a last attempt to help Vermaak stay, Bell has launched an appeal to Associate Minister Kate Wilkinson to intervene.

However, Vermaak was dealt another blow - being told she had to move out of her flat by last Saturday.

"It has been tough. Really stressful for all of us. It has been one thing after the other," she said.

Bell and his wife Tammy offered the family a room in their house, as they believed their situation was "unfair and unjust".

"The landlord decided to reoccupy the flat and said they had to vacate. They have no money; they can't afford to go anywhere," Bell said.

"There are very few options for homeless people in Christchurch . . . We would not be able to live with ourselves if we didn't do everything we could to support this honest, hard-working family."

Vermaak and her daughter Zelda, 16, are sharing a double bed in the room while Kyle, 19, has a single bed on the floor.

The house is packed, as the Bells also have a 17-year-old daughter and four cats, which will be joined by Vermaak's cat.

Vermaak said she hated imposing on the family but "had no other option".

"I know it's unfair to stay here but I don't know what else to do. It is a relief to have a place to stay. [The Bells] have been amazing."

The family's deportation has been put on hold while Wilkinson decides whether to step in or not.

Bell said they had received a letter of acknowledgement from Wilkinson. "We're hopeful. We're asking her to look at the case and see if there has been a severe miscarriage of justice, which we believe there has been, and make an exception."

Bell feared what would happen to the Vermaak family if the were deported.

"They would not be able to work, or find a place to live. They have no support; they would be destitute. South Africa is a dangerous place for a homeless family. There is a lot of violence. Three people's lives are at stake here."

The Press