July 30, 2020 / 2:11 AM / 5 days ago

Rugby league: Government working to get Warriors players back into New Zealand, Ardern says

FILE PHOTO: New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern smiles during a news conference prior to the anniversary of the mosque attacks that took place the prior year in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 13, 2020. REUTERS/Martin Hunter

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Thursday officials are working to ensure two rugby players can return from Australia at the end of the National Rugby League season.

The New Zealand Warriors have been told Eliesa Katoa and Selestino Ravutaumada would not be allowed to return to the country as they were on work visas and were not permanent residents or citizens.

Both Tonga-born Katoa and Fijian Ravutaumada moved to New Zealand as teenagers and had been resident for more than three years.

New Zealand’s borders are closed to all but its citizens and permanent residents as part of measures to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“From what I’ve been briefed on, it’s a matter that is looking to be resolved,” Ardern told reporters on Thursday.

“Those on visas but there are economic reasons for them being here, those take more of a process. We’ve set some clear criteria and we have officials working through those applications.

“We’re clear that if you’re outside of that category of being a citizen or resident, there are expectations that you must meet so we can see that the need of you being here is linked into the wider wellbeing of New Zealand.”

The Auckland-based Warriors relocated to Australia in May for the NRL season restart and will remain there until they have completed all of their matches.

The regular season is scheduled to end on Sept. 27.

Reporting by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Peter Rutherford

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