Fate of pregnant journalist stranded in Afghanistan revealed
New Zealand reporter Charlotte Bellis announced on Tuesday that government officials have confirmed that she will be able to return to her home country “at the beginning of March to give birth to our baby girl.”
The ability to return to New Zealand comes after wrangling with the country’s government over its Covid border policy, which has left her stranded in Afghanistan.
The 35-year-old Bellis had been working in Afghanistan as a correspondent for Qatar-based Al Jazeera but resigned in November because it’s illegal to be unmarried and pregnant in Qatar.
She has remained in the now Taliban-controlled country as she has been unable to secure entry to New Zealand via the lottery-style system or emergency return. New Zealand has struggled to repatriate citizens, as the country has limited space in the military-run border-quarantine hotels people must be admitted to upon return.
Chris Bunny, the head of New Zealand’s quarantine system, confirmed that Bellis had been offered entry to the country due to concerns about the risk of terrorism in Afghanistan and her safety in the wake of the Taliban’s takeover.
“We do acknowledge that Ms. Bellis considers herself to be safe and did not seek an allocation on that ground,” Bunny said, adding, “We have the residual discretion to grant allocations in rare and exceptional circumstances.”
Despite the situation surrounding Bellis and other New Zealanders who are struggling to return home, New Zealand’s Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins defended the border policy, claiming it has worked well, saved lives, and prevented the health system from being overwhelmed.