(LifeSiteNews) — A pregnant journalist from New Zealand who was denied re-entry to her home country due to its heavily restrictive COVID-19 protocols has finally been allowed to return after she was forced to stay in Afghanistan and get help from the Taliban.
The saga underscores the impact of New Zealand’s draconian COVID-19 protocols which have effectively imprisoned residents within their own country and barred thousands from returning home. Meanwhile, the willingness of the Taliban to assist the journalist, while her own government would not, throws into sharp relief the inhumanity of harsh COVID measures.
More unimaginable cruelty from Jacinda Ardern in her hermit kingdom. Pregnant New Zealand journalist Charlotte Bellis was denied re entry so had to ask the Taliban to allow her safe refuge in Afghanistan.
There’s nothing kind about Dear Leader Ardern.https://t.co/MpdPEOIvcJ
— Dan Wootton (@danwootton) January 28, 2022
Charlotte Bellis, 35, a journalist who was on assignment last year in Kabul to cover the drawdown on U.S. troops in Afghanistan, wrote a column last week in the New Zealand Herald in which she said that her request to return home to New Zealand had been rejected due to COVID restrictions.
Bellis, who is unmarried, said she had been in Qatar but left shortly after learning she was pregnant since it is against the law in the Muslim country to be pregnant and unmarried.
“She and her partner originally went to his home country of Belgium, but knew they would need to depart since she needed to have a tourist visa to stay,” Fox News reported.
The journalist then applied for an “emergency allocation” to return home to New Zealand after the country’s government announced it would re-open its borders to citizens at the end of February following a border shutdown due to the coronavirus.
“The timing was perfect,” she said. “I would be 29 weeks pregnant and could get back in time for our little girl’s birth in May.”
Meanwhile, with her temporary Belgian visa rapidly expiring, Bellis said she and her “partner,” Jim Huylebroek, a New York Times reporter, decided to wait in the only country where they had work visas: Afghanistan.
Bellis said she reached out to contacts within the Taliban and asked whether it would be possible to come to Afghanistan, despite being an unmarried pregnant woman, while awaiting a response from the New Zealand government.
She said she was told, “No we’re happy for you, you can come and you won’t have a problem. Just tell people you’re married and if it escalates, call us. Don’t worry. Everything will be fine.”
However, before Bellis’ intended return travel dates approached, New Zealand’s planned border reopening was put off and her request was denied.
Bellis said New Zealand officials told her that her application was deactivated and she would simply need to seek medical help in her current location.
“Our current location being Afghanistan,” she pointed out, a country with sky-high mortality rates among pregnant mothers.
Charlotte Bellis is a pregnant Kiwi reporter based in Afghanistan who is stuck in limbo as a result of Aotearoa’s MIQ lottery. 👉 https://t.co/1981PkKjNm pic.twitter.com/1VYH7qjhEj
— 1News (@1NewsNZ) January 29, 2022
The journalist was not alone in being blocked from returning home to New Zealand, whose COVID restrictions remain among the harshest in the world.
The Daily Mail noted that Bellis was “one of tens of thousand[s] of Kiwis who have been stranded overseas due to Jacinda Ardern’s strict Covid rules,” which require applicants to isolate for 10 days in a quarantine hotel at their own expense upon arrival.
With limited availability for rooms and approval granted based on a lottery system, the BBC noted that “many New Zealanders wishing to return” have been essentially “shut out of their country for about two years now.”
A comparatively small country separated by water from the rest of the world, New Zealand has spent much of the past two years pursuing a “zero COVID” policy via crushing lockdowns, curfews, mandates, and restrictions. New Zealand’s leadership has repeatedly affirmed its policies regarding COVID vaccination are intended to make life difficult for the unvaccinated.
When asked by a reporter last year whether COVID vaccine passports would create a two-tiered society, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern replied with a smile, “That is what it is, yep.”
Meanwhile, pregnant and trapped in a volatile Middle Eastern country, Bellis said she broke down sobbing after her application to return home was rejected.
“I wasn’t triggered by the disappointment and uncertainty, but by the breach of trust,” she said. “That in my time of need, the New Zealand Government said you’re not welcome here.”
“When the Taliban offers you — a pregnant, unmarried woman — safe haven, you know your situation is messed up,” she remarked.
‘I approached the Taliban and said do you think we’re going to have an issue… and they were really gracious actually’
Pregnant Journalist Charlotte Bellis discusses not being allowed back into New Zealand from Afghanistan because of strict Covid restrictions. pic.twitter.com/vRtftYUx5C
— GB News (@GBNEWS) January 31, 2022
After penning her column, which received international attention as readers around the world decried New Zealand’s restrictions which have turned out to be harsher than Afghanistan’s theocratic laws, Bellis has said she’s finally been permitted re-entry into New Zealand.
The Guardian reported that “Bellis confirmed her application had been approved and said she would be returning to New Zealand in early March,” adding that approval to return “was granted based on the risks associated with her location and not because of her pregnancy.”
“Pregnancy in and of itself is not considered an emergency under the emergency allocation criteria but certain conditions during pregnancy may mean that the high bar for an emergency is met,” wrote Chris Bunny, head of New Zealand’s Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ).
Bellis will be forced to undergo a 10-day hotel quarantine once in New Zealand, but said she is “so excited to return home and to be surrounded by family and friends at such a special time.”
The Daily Mail noted that Prime Minister Ardern, who is facing backlash and dipping poll numbers due to her extremely strict COVID policies, has not yet commented on Bellis’ situation.
The 41-year-old leader called off her own wedding late last month due to concerns about COVID. Last week she went into isolation due to possible exposure to the virus. Though Ardern has tested negative, she plans to remain in isolation until Wednesday.
The prime minister is set to give a speech about “New Zealand’s plan to reconnect with the world” on Thursday, The Daily Mail reported.