'See our people as people' - Ukrainian in NZ pleas government to let 'Whānau' in

Over one month ago the government announced a special visa policy to reunite Ukrainians with their immediate family here in New Zealand. It said it would benefit around 4,000 people. 

'See our people as people' - Ukrainian in NZ pleas government to let 'Whanau' in
Tatayana Zagrebelko is desperate to bring her nephew, cousin to NZ - though govt don't recognise them as close family
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But as Today FM revealed earlier this week, just 380 visas have been approved. 

Tatayana Zagrebelko applied to bring her cousin and nephew over from Ukraine after they were forced to flee their home in Kharkiv. She spoke to Tova on Thursday morning.

O'Brien asked Zagrebelko what immigration New Zealand had said to her.

"So I applied for a visa for my parents and for my cousin and nephew," Zagrebelko told Today FM.

"[The] application was approved for my parents, but it was rejected for my cousin and nephew.

"They say they are not immediate family members, so they are not allowed to come. So this is basically in the nutshell. (sic) 

"So I had a conversation with immigration officer and I sent them a letter explaining that we are one family because I'm the only child in my family and she's the only child in her family.

"For example, our parents live together now because that displaced from their homes. So we are family. But immigration office has said that current legal limitations don't allow them to approve that visa."

Zagrebelko said that she is grateful for everything our government has been doing to show support for Ukraine during this crisis, though thinks there are more steps that can be taken to do more.

There are 4,000 spaces available for people to come to New Zealand on a visa, though only 380 have been approved so far.

O'Brien asked the Ukrainian living in New Zealand how it made her feel when the visas for her other family members were denied.

"I was absolutely devastated because I realised I can't do anything," she said.

"We want to save our future. We want to save the kids. So far, over 200 kids have died and they keep dying in Ukraine, you know, and it's not finished yet. And here in New Zealand, we can do much for them. We can give them a chance to live.

"When my nephew's visa was declined, you know, there's like no hope."

"I feel powerless. Helpless. And I don't know, I'm sad, disappointed and all this and I can't change it at the moment. And thank you for contacting me because I can share it with our public. What I feel, what other people feel because feeling hopeless, that's horrible."

Zagrebelko says her nephew is just 14 years old. She says she is scared for him and the rest of her family's lives.

Zagrebelko said that not unlike Māori culture here in New Zealand, her cousin, her nephew are her close family, her Whānau - although Immigration New Zealand does not look at it this way.

O'Brien asked Zagrebelko what she would say to the Immigration Minister.

"I would like to ask you to see people as people and expand this definition of family and consider it as Whanau because that's their people. They're our people.

"They're asking for help. And Ukrainians and New Zealand are ready to accommodate them, share our roof and bread and we'll look after them.

"Ukrainians are a working nation when we don't rely on the government. And we just want these people to be safe and we want them to have a chance for survival and for new life. That's all."

Watch the full interview between Tatayana Zagrebelko and Tova above.

You can also download the full interview on the Tova podcast, and listen on the go. Check it out on the rova app or wherever you get your podcasts.