Pregnant New Zealand journalist told she can return home

Charlotte Bellis with her partner Jim Huylebroek in Kabul, Afghanistan. Photograph: Charlotte Bellis via AP

A pregnant New Zealand journalist who was stranded in Afghanistan after failing to secure a spot in her own country’s strict quarantine system has now been offered a place, the government has confirmed.

The deputy prime minister Grant Robertson said the ministry for business, innovation and employment, which manages the quarantine system known as MIQ, has offered Charlotte Bellis an MIQ voucher.

“There is a place in MIQ for Miss Bellis, and I urge her to take it,” Robertson said.

Bellis discovered she was pregnant a short time after gaining international attention in 2021 for questioning Taliban leaders about their treatment of women and girls. She is due to give birth in May.

She resigned from Al Jazeera in November and had no choice but to leave Qatar, where she was usually based, because sex outside marriage is illegal.

She and her partner, Jim Huylebroek, then moved to his native Belgium. In a column published in the New Zealand Herald on Saturday, Bellis wrote that she was unable to stay in Belgium because she was not a resident. She said the only other place the couple had visas to live was Afghanistan, where they are now located.

In her column, she said she had been forced to turn to the Taliban for help before re-entering Afghanistan after her application for a place in New Zealand’s MIQ was rejected. She said she had since been attempting unsuccessfully to secure an emergency MIQ to give birth in New Zealand.

New Zealand has managed to keep the spread of the coronavirus to a minimum during the pandemic and has reported 52 Covid deaths among its population of 5 million.

But the requirement that even returning citizens spend 10 days isolating in quarantine hotels run by the military has led to a backlog of thousands of people vying for spots.

Robertson said Covid-19 has meant many New Zealanders have been unable to return home for funerals, weddings and childbirth.

“That’s incredibly tough. We’ve had our MIQ process in place for a very good reason – it has supported our public health response; it has avoided a number of deaths. But it doesn’t make it easy for people who are at the other end, wanting to come back to New Zealand.”

The Guardian has contacted Bellis for comment. – Guardian