New Zealand to help fund funerals of mosque attack victims, regardless of immigration status

Click to play video: 'New Zealand shooting: Christchurch prepares for burials as victims’ friends, families wait for release of bodies'
New Zealand shooting: Christchurch prepares for burials as victims’ friends, families wait for release of bodies
WATCH: The community of Christchurch has begun preparations for the burials of the victims of Friday's shootings at two mosques, while families and friends say they are still waiting for the bodies to be released – Mar 17, 2019

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Sunday that as part of the country’s Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC), the government will assist in covering the funeral costs of all victims of Thursday’s mosque attack — regardless of their immigration status.

Ardern made the announcement in a statement on the New Zealand government’s website.

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“ACC is putting more staff on the ground in Christchurch, working alongside the Ministry of Social Development at the community hub at Hagley. For ACC – as I’ve said before immigration status is not a factor – it is based on the event happening here in New Zealand. In an event such as this – murder or manslaughter – the family is eligible for a funeral grant of around $10,000,” the statement read.

Fifty people were killed Friday afternoon in the Christchurch and Canterbury region of New Zealand after a gunman opened fire on two mosques. An official list of the victims has yet to be provided by law enforcement and the bodies had not been released.

Ardern’s statement also said that the bodies of the 50 people killed in Friday’s mosque attacks will start being released to family members beginning Sunday evening.

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Ardern says only a small number of bodies will be released initially, and that authorities hope to release all the bodies by Wednesday. Islamic law calls for bodies to be cleansed and buried as soon as possible after death, usually within 24 hours.

ACC provides insurance coverage for personal injury to anyone in New Zealand, whether a citizen, resident or visitor. Eligibility for the service depends on whether or not the event took place in New Zealand, rather than on citizenship status.

The system is unique because it’s a no-fault scheme, meaning that it applies regardless of who caused the accident or incident, even if the applicant is at fault. However, it also means that the applicant can’t sue for any costs that relate to the injury or any effects it has.

In a press conference held shortly after the shooting, Ardern reiterated New Zealand’s commitment to immigrants, refugees and others who have decided to make the country their home.

“They are us. The person who has perpetuated this violence against us is not,” she said. “They have no place in New Zealand. There is no place in New Zealand for such acts of extreme and unprecedented violence, which it is clear this act was.”

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Funeral grants of up to NZ$10,000 (CAD$9,144) will be offered to families of the victims. In addition, one-off payments will be provided to the deceased’s partner, children, and other dependents. Ongoing assistance for services such as child care is also available to mitigate the loss of the victim’s income.

“Two members from our specialist Accidental Death Unit have travelled to Christchurch, and we’ll work directly with funeral directors to ensure the process is as seamless as possible for grieving families,” ACC Chief Executive Scott Pickering said in a public statement.

In addition, for all those injured in the attack, all acute medical costs will be taken care of and support for longer-term care is available.

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