Posts Tagged ‘cherie’

Final Chapter of the Vermaak Family’s story

July 6, 2014

Back in July 2012 I wrote about the Vermaak family’s plight in facing deportation.

Since that first story there has been a huge amount of silent work behind the scenes, but now it’s time for an update as a final decision has been made on their fight to stay in NZ. This update includes a brief recap of the situation.

Facing deportation

March 2012 – Work Visa Declined
Cherie had been working for the Christchurch City Council for 4 years in a skilled occupation but ran into trouble when she needed a new Police Certificate to arrive from South Africa.

With her work visa due to expire she needed this certificate to put in an application to renew her visa. Unfortunately South African certificates can take several months to arrive and the immigration department (INZ) refused to wait for this.

The decision by INZ meant that Cherie found herself in a very difficult situation very quickly. Without a valid visa she lost her job and only source of income despite backing from her Council boss. Being unlawful in New Zealand she and her two children were subject to deportation. Zelda who was 16 year old at the time was also no longer had the right to go to school.

May 2012 – First Media Story
This is where Tammy and I became aware of the situation and decided to get involved. The family was now without a source of income and, as temporary visa holders were not entitled to any kind of benefit or financial assistance. Imagine having no way get or earn money, no way to ix your situation.

In an incredibly short space of time they were in a desperate situation, being forced to sell their possessions to buy food and facing eviction from their home. When we first met the family they did not know which way to turn – running out of possessions to sell and in real danger or being thrown out onto the streets.

Thankfully the media attention generated a wave of support for the family which held off their eviction for a short time. The New Zealand public were fantastic!

I went to work to help where I could. First jobs were talking to the Ministry of Education to get Zelda back into school and asking the immigration department to hold off deportation action to give the family a little more time.

June 2012 – Facing Eviction
The amazing support generated by the New Zealand public helped for a short while but soon ran out and the family found themselves facing eviction with no money and no way to get any.

A tight Squeeze

A tight Squeeze

We couldn’t allow them to become homeless so Tammy and I opened our own home to the family of three and their cats Fluffy and Peebles.

It was a tight squeeze with our family (which included four cats), but they stayed with us for four months until they were able to get back on their feet.

October 2013 – Ministerial Intervention
Cherie had a job offer but INZ were unwilling to grant a visa so Mike took the case to Hon Kate Wilkinson, then Associate Immigration Minister. The first great break-through for Cherie and her children came when the Minister agree to Mike’s request and overturned INZ’s decision, granting Cherie a visa to work.

This involved about 500 hours of pro-bono work for the family, but put them in a position where once again Cherie could work her way out of this terrible situation. Cherie and her children have had a harrowing two years and just needed that chance. Once Cherie was able to start work she became eligible for residence again and we worked with her to lodge an application.

The Final Update
It has not been plain sailing – there have been serious ups and downs for the family – but we are thrilled to report that this week Cherie, Kyle and Zelda were granted New Zealand Residence. This means they no longer need to fear deportation and can finally have hope and security for the future.

Cherie and Mike

Cherie’s Request
Cherie has asked us to update all of the people whose support and generosity made such a difference to this family during such a difficult time.

Cherie, Kyle and Zelda wanted to thank the hundreds of people both locally and from around the world who were there for them in so many different ways. The family is now looking forward making long term plans for their new life in Christchurch New Zealand.

Tammy and I are catching up with Cherie next week for a celebratory curry :o).

I am really delighted with this result. Sometimes bad things happen to good people and this is why migrant advocates are so badly needed – to give a helping hand at the right time.

Mike Bell
Migrant advocate | Licensed Immigration Adviser


News stories

This story has been followed through the media, here are a number of the news stories written.

 

 

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Just a little more time please

July 11, 2012

On 12th May this year I noticed the headline ‘Family lives in fear of deportation‘ and read about Cherie Vermaak and her children facing deportation from New Zealand. I immediately offered my help and have recently had news, but as background hereis where is all started:

A South African family that has been “fighting an immigration battle for the past five years” is now unlawfully living in Christchurch and says imminent deportation is more frightening than sleeping on the streets.

The article went on to say that:

She could not afford to pay rent next week and had been slowly selling “everything I own” to feed her two teenage children, Kyle, 19 and Zelda, 16.

Despite “pleading” for help from agencies, the family was not eligible for Government support because they did not have residency, nor could they temporarily sleep in their car because that had also been sold.

This was someone who clearly needed help – we met for the first time on May 16th and, as soon as Tammy and I found out the circumstances of the case, we offered our help.  I’d like to thank The Press for running the story on Cherie’s situation, without this we would never had known anything about it.

Making a difference
Over the past 7 years as move2nz, Tammy and I have been able to give help in supporting people – for example our recent work with Charmain Timmons.

Our focus is on fairness and transparency in immigration. No matter how good information you give out is sometimes people fall between the cracks and end up in terrible situations. Rather than standing around ‘tut-tutting’ we take action to make a positive difference.

Immigration help
Now as a licensed immigration adviser it was great to be able to offer Cherie direct help with her immigration problems, something we previously had to rely on others for with varying degrees of success. I was pretty disgusted to find that she had been working with an adviser since she arrived in NZ, but they had walked away when the family ran out of money.

So move2nz (offering family support) and New Zealand Immigration & Settlement Services (providing immigration advice on a pro-bono basis) swung into action.

The first step was looking after the family: the Press ran a brilliant story and offers of help flooded in. Kiwis are amazingly generous when they realise a hard-working mum just needs a fair-go and this help made a huge difference.

With immediate fears of being turned onto the street taken care of we contacted the Ministry of Education to get Zelda back into school.

Sorting out the immigration situation
I collected a foot-high pile of papers and spent hours working out what had happened. It was great to be able to help with this and I soon worked out the problem.

Over the years working for the council Cherie had only ever been offered a 12 month contract. Because of this she could only get a 12 month visa and never move to the safety of residence. She was in the process of applying for yet another Work Visa when she was offered a permanent contract after helping through the devastation of the Canterbury earthquakes. Finally she could apply for residency and be safe.

Unfortunately there was one problem: her police clearance certificate from South Africa didn’t turn up in time. Her application to renew her Work Visa was declined so she lost her job – no visa = no work = no money.

As we’ve been saying on move2nz for years, migrants on temporary visas are vulnerable and this case proved that very well. Over time the family’s savings got used up and they sold off all of their possessions. As temporary migrants they were not entitled to any benefit or government help meaning eventually they would become destitute and have to be deported unless Cherie could get another visa.

You’ve got six weeks
I spoke to Cherie’s immigration case-officer to explain the situation, wrote a couple of letters and explained just how useful Cherie as a skilled worker was. After some good discussion the answer back from INZ: Cherie had six weeks for Cherie to find a skilled job that matched her qualifications and experience.

This was a very slim chance for the family knowing how long it can take to get a job offer and we needed to move fast. I re-wrote Cherie’s already good CV and she worked night and day contacting employers about potential jobs. Meanwhile the media continued to run stories (see below).

The six weeks went very quickly and most of the employers Cherie had applied to were only just finishing advertising, meaning they wouldn’t interview for days or weeks. Things started to look pretty serious for the family as their deadline to get out of New Zealand loomed.

In the next installment of this story I’ll tell you what happened next ;o).

News stories: