A Somali father-of-three shot in the back by the Christchurch mosque terrorist says he feels “helpless and hopeless” without the support of family members stuck overseas.
Osman Ahmed suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. He is among a group of five injured or bereaved Somali-Kiwi mosque attack survivors who have spent 16 months battling with Immigration New Zealand (INZ) to bring overseas family members here to support them.
With only weeks until the sentencing of the gunman, they’ve given up hope their families will be with them during the emotionally distressing time.
“How can I be confident to go to the court?” Ahmed said, “I’m deeply feeling not well.”
Following the attacks, INZ issued 216 emergency visitor visas to overseas family members of people directly affected. Some have since had visas extended and others offered permanent residence.
The Government has recently made border exemptions available to family members of mosque attack victims who want to visit for the sentencing on August 24. As foreign nationals, those people could not currently enter New Zealand under Covid-19 restrictions.
But the affected Somalis say they haven’t had the same support.
New Zealand does not recognise Somali passports. Something that has been a major obstacle for the group, who say they were not informed of this by INZ until a meeting with former minister Iain Lees-Galloway in November last year.
For Ahmed, an ex-care worker and Uber driver, his unsuccessful efforts to bring his parents and two siblings to New Zealand to support him and his family have exacerbated his fragile emotional state.
Pointing to a sack of immigration documents, he said “I’m sick of this black bag”.
“Because everything in there is bleeding me inside. How can I get help if I’m still stuck on this road?”
Unable to work, he has been living on ACC weekly compensation of about $500 per week and payments from donations managed by Victim Support and the Christchurch Foundation.
People who were shot in the attack were paid $25,000 from the Our People, Our City fund managed by the Christchurch Foundation and $26,000 by Victim Support.
Ahmed has spent most of the money he received trying to bring his family to New Zealand.
In February, he paid for his relatives to travel from a Syrian refugee camp to Malaysia, where there is a New Zealand High Commission, in the hope this would help them gain a visa, but they were still declined.
Somalia has been embroiled in 25 years of civil war. Hundreds of thousands of its citizens have been forced to flee the country.
In 2012, the federal government of Somalia was established and, although the country remains fragile, many other nations now recognise Somali passports.
Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi won’t intervene in INZ processes around the sentencing of the Christchurch mosque attacker. KEVIN STENT/STUFF
INZ national manager, border Peter Elms said in the past 20 years there has been no authority in Somalia recognised by the New Zealand Government as being competent to issue passports on behalf of Somalia.
“This does not necessarily stop a person from being granted a visa. Endorsement should be made in an INZ Certificate of Identity, or another acceptable travel document.”
Following the meeting with Lees-Galloway in November the group sought help from local MPs including Megan Woods, Ruth Dyson and Gerry Brownlee.
One of the five Somalis, Aden Diriye – whose three year old was shot dead in the attacks – had two family members in Turkey issued with Certificates of Identity this month after assistance from Dyson and a ministerial intervention.
Ahmed is finalising an application for ministerial discretion which he hopes to send soon.
Lawyer Grant Cameron, who agreed to write a submission on behalf of the group to the royal commission investigating the mosque attacks, said the families felt discriminated against by the Government. This was being reinforced by a “bureaucratic blockage” and a breakdown in communication, he said.
“They [INZ] have, at this stage, apparently no ability to recognise Somali passports and I’m suggesting to them strongly that for the purposes of the sentencing …the Government could in fact recognise those four or five passports that are involved for the purposes of this exercise.”
A spokesman for Minister of Immigration Kris Faafoi said the minister would not be intervening in INZ processes for border exemptions connected to the sentencing.
Other members of the Somali group who made the submission are: Aden Diriye, who lost his three-year-old son; Farhiya Abdulkadir, who lost her father; Abdirahman Ibrahim, who was shot in the leg; and Muhubo Jama, whose husband was killed.