Christchurch shooting survivor pleads for residency

IAIN MCGREGOR/Stuff
A team of volunteers has been organising and delivering meals to 31 families affected by the Christchurch terror attacks.

A survivor of the Christchurch mosque shootings is pleading with Immigration New Zealand to grant him and his wife fresh visas so they can stay permanently in New Zealand.

Immigration NZ wouldn't be drawn on whether they would grant the request of Mohammad Tofazzal Alam, who was in the Linwood mosque when the shootings happened.

 

Alam is on a three-year work visa but says he's been unable to return to his sales job because of the mental trauma. He says he witnessed a man next to him at the mosque get shot and his car was damaged during the attack.

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Alam's wife, Aysha Irin, has applied for a partnership visa. Both want to return to Bangladesh on an extended holiday to reassure worried family of their safety, but Alam doesn't want to leave for fear his wife will not be readmitted to the country.

He would also like to be granted New Zealand residency because he says he doesn't want to return to his old job as a sales rep, because he cannot face meeting new people.

"Myself and my wife are both the youngest in our families so our families are very anxious, very afraid, very sorry for us and they want to see us," said Alam. "It is too hard for us to bring them all here."

He said his mother wanted him to return permanently to Bangladesh, but he had refused because he loved New Zealand. Alam arrived here in 2014 and studied a series of business courses; he said he had volunteered extensively, including at the Cricket World Cup in 2015 and the FIFA under-19 Football World Cup, as well as for the Red Cross.

Tofazzal says he's reluctant to return to his sales job because he's now afraid of meeting strangers.
STACY SQUIRES/STUFF
Tofazzal says he's reluctant to return to his sales job because he's now afraid of meeting strangers.

"I am in fear. I used to visit strangers who I didn't know and after this incident, life is not normal - I only talk to people whom I know by name or by face, I am afraid to talk to strangers.

"We love New Zealand, we love to live in New Zealand, how can we feel free from this stress? If Immigration [NZ] can help us to get residency, we at least don't have to worry about work visas and more jobs will be open to us ... we have so much stress in our hearts and minds that if Immigration [NZ] can at least do a favour to us we don't have to worry about our residency, we can sort out our lives."

​In a statement, Immigration New Zealand general manager Peter Elms said the department empathised with those affected by the shootings, and its "first priority" was to discuss the immigration status of victims and immediate family members.

Elms said the couple's application was being processed and Immigration NZ would make a final decision as soon as possible. The department was aware of their desire to travel to Bangladesh.

Elms didn't respond directly to Alam's plea for residency, but said: "INZ is committed to easing some of the burden that immigration can have during this time of stress and anxiety and where necessary transfer those individuals onto longer-term visas to give them some certainty about their immigration status. The Government is considering further possible options for those on temporary visas who have been affected and will make announcements in due course."

Tuariki Delamere, an immigration advisor, has given informal advice to Alam. He said while Immigration NZ appeared to be addressing Alam's immediate concerns, he couldn't understand why they couldn't act quicker and approve his Bangladesh visit.

 

Stuff