WELLINGTON: A pregnant New Zealand journalist denied re-entry to her home country to give birth said she has instead been offered refuge by the Afghan Taliban.
“This just feels like such a breach of trust,” she said on Sunday (Jan 30) in an interview with Radio New Zealand.
Ms Charlotte Bellis had been working for Al Jazeera in Afghanistan, where her photographer partner Jim Huylebroek is also based.
But she did not realise she was pregnant until she returned to Al Jazeera’s headquarters in Doha, Qatar.
It is illegal to be pregnant and unmarried in Qatar, so Bellis kept the pregnancy secret as she prepared to return to New Zealand.
When told she did not qualify for an exemption under New Zealand’s strict COVID-19-enforced border controls and with Afghanistan the only other place she and Mr Huylebroek had visas to live, Ms. Bellis said she called senior Taliban contacts and was told she could give birth there.
“We’re happy for you, you can come and you won’t have a problem,” Bellis said the Taliban told her in an interview with the New Zealand Herald.
“Don’t worry. Everything will be fine,” she added they said.
“In my time of need, the New Zealand government said you’re not welcome here.
“When the Taliban offer you — a pregnant, unmarried woman — safe haven, you know your situation is messed up.”
After going public with her situation, and involving lawyers, Ms Bellis said she had been contacted by New Zealand officials who said her rejected application was under review.
The government’s COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said he had asked officials to check whether the proper procedures had been followed in Ms Bellis’ case, “which appeared at first sight to warrant further explanation”.