FILE PHOTO: New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern leaves after the Friday prayers at Hagley Park outside Al-Noor mosque in Christchurch
WELLINGTON (Reuters) - New Zealand will grant permanent residency to all survivors of the mass shooting at two Christchurch mosques in which 50 Muslim worshippers were killed, it said on Tuesday.
Australian Brenton Tarrant, 28, a suspected white supremacist, has been charged with 50 counts of murder for New Zealand's worst peacetime mass shooting in which 50 other people at Friday prayers were wounded.
The government had said it was considering giving visas to survivors, but no decision was announced. Tuesday's news was only released as a link on the immigration website, which some say was done to avoid any backlash by opponents of immigration.
Immigration New Zealand said a new visa category called the Christchurch Response (2019) visa had been created. People who were present at the mosques when they were attacked on March 15 can apply, as can immediate family members.
Applicants must have been living in New Zealand on the day of the attack, so the visa will not be available to tourists or short-term visitors. Applications can be made from Wednesday.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the attack was an act of terrorism and passed firearm laws banning semi-automatic weapons.
A Sri Lankan minister said on Tuesday that the Easter bombings at churches and hotels that killed 321 people appeared to be retaliation for the New Zealand mosque attacks.
The Islamic State group later claimed responsibility for the coordinated blasts.
(Reporting by Praveen Menon; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)