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Taliban grants temporary refuge to pregnant reporter denied quarantine in New Zealand

Taliban grants temporary refuge to pregnant reporter denied quarantine in New Zealand

A pregnant reporter from New Zealand has written a scathing open letter reprimanding the New Zealand government over its denial of institutional quarantine to her, which forced her to seek temporary refuge in Afghanistan under the Taliban.

A former Al Jazeera English reporter, Charlotte Bellis gained fame after her reporting in Afghanistan during which had the opportunity to question the Taliban on their aims for women empowerment.

She had to appeal to the Taliban government to grant her refuge after being denied a spot in Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) which is meant for those returning to New Zealand as part of the country's strict policies for prevention of Covid-19 spread.

The Taliban had assured protection for her and her partner and unborn child, asking them to contact representatives if any issues arose, she narrated in her letter.

Bellis was reporting on Afghanistan for Al Jazeera, when she discovered she was pregnant in September, while in Qatar. She quit her job in November seeking to return to her home country to give birth to her child. But that's where the problems began, the former reporter said.

Bellis said that she had to go to her partner's country Belgium as it is illegal to be unmarried and pregnant in Qatar. She said she kept trying to get to New Zealand but couldn't succeed in getting an MIQ spot through New Zealand's lottery system.

Bellis said she could not overstay in Belgium since she was not a resident and had nowhere else to go but Afghanistan. So, she organised a meeting with senior Taliban contacts and told them about her situation. The Taliban told her she and her partner will be safe in Afghanistan.

Despite the desperate and unsafe conditions in Afghanistan, Bellis said her appeal was rejected due to the fact that the couple's travel dates were more than 14 days away and she did not provide evidence she had scheduled medical treatment in New Zealand, according to government officials.

New Zealand Health Minister Chris Hipkins said that he had been looking into the matter and that the rejection of Bellis' application required more explanations.

"I thought about sending them a story I did in October at a maternity hospital in Kabul where they had no power so were delivering by cell phones at night. They couldn't do caesarean deliveries and the only medicine they had were tabs of paracetamol wrapped in crinkled newspaper," Bellis said in her open letter, describing her ordeal and the situation in Afghanistan.

"The decision of who should get an emergency MIQ spot is not made on a level playing field, lacks ethical reasoning and pits our most vulnerable against each other," she said in the article.

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TAGS:Taliban Afghanistan New Zealand Covid-19 Controversy 
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