New Zealand is offering permanent residency to all of those who were at two mosques in Christchurch last month when a terrorist killed 50 people, as well as to the survivors’ immediate relatives, the country’s immigration minister said on Tuesday.
The move, which the New Zealand immigration agency estimated would cover about 190 people, followed public pleas from survivors and family members of the victims for certainty about their immigration status. Many of them have temporary work or study visas.
The immigration minister, Iain Lees-Galloway, said the severity of the assaults had required a “significant” response from the government.
“These people were victims of a deliberate attack that was designed to inflict maximum level of physical harm, and maximum level of mental trauma as well,” he said.
The government did not publicly announce the offer for permanent resident visas. Instead, an information page was quietly added to the immigration agency’s website.
Mr Lees-Galloway said the government was seeking to avoid the appearance of striving for “political mileage” from the decision. But the muted rollout could also help dampen any backlash against the move.
The government made the decision to offer the visas at a cabinet meeting on April 15. The minister said it took an additional week for the immigration agency to make the necessary preparations.
Mr Lees-Galloway said the government had created a new visa category for those present at the mosques during the March 15 shootings, which left 50 people injured in addition to the 50 killed. Those applying for the permanent resident visas will essentially have their applications rubber-stamped.
Police records will be checked to ensure that the applicant has a legitimate claim. Emergency workers, and those who were on tourist visas or staying in New Zealand for a very short time will not be eligible. A number of those in the mosques were already permanent residents of New Zealand and do not need immigration help.