Red Alert

Posts Tagged ‘Immigration’

Minister of Immigration all at sea over complaints

Posted by on February 14th, 2014

Spokesperson for Immigration

13 February 2014 MEDIA ADVISORY
Immigration Minister all at sea over complaints
Michael Woodhouse is clearly not in command of his portfolio as he simply does not appreciate the scale of the scams in our immigration system relating to job selling, says Labour’s Immigration spokesperson Dr Rajen Prasad.

“The Minister believes that all that victimised migrants who have been scammed for thousands of dollars have to do is to call a phone line at Immigration New Zealand and provide the information.

“He clearly has little appreciation of the scale and nature of the practices adopted by the illegal scammers. They lock people into paying exorbitant fees and leave them dangling on the promise of a job that they hope will eventually qualify them for residence.

“This Minister is not interested in finding out what keeps those complainants from coming forward. Those who scam migrants trade on the vulnerability of migrants because they want to make New Zealand their permanent home. They clearly feel they will lose everything if they complain in a very public way.

“In Parliament today The Minister of Immigration refused to accept that Immigration New Zealand threatened with deportation three people who complained of scams and refused them a visa while their complaint was being investigated. This decision demonstrates the very thing that complainants fear. It took the persistent advocacy of a very experienced lawyer over almost two months for this matter to be addressed.

“The Catch 22 that the Minister refuses to address is that when victims complain, their visas are cancelled or not renewed. If they don’t complain, they pay huge sums of money to illegal scammers and New Zealand does not get the migrants it seeks to attract. Some of the worst cases being reported to my office are from foreign fee paying students.

“The reputation of the New Zealand immigration system will suffer if its integrity is not protected. Many cases have been aired in the media, especially the ethnic media. Callers to radio stations have confirmed many of these scams and have made it clear why they are reluctant to come forward.

“This is why I have asked the Minister to set up an enquiry with sufficient safeguards to allow those who have been scammed to tell their story and expose the elaborate methods that are used by those scammers.”

Contact: Dr Rajen Prasad 021 444 177

Deal with the real issues please John

Posted by on April 12th, 2013

This week, I’ve had several more groups and individual migrant workers tell me about how their rights are being abused by exploitative employers. Sub-minimum wages, long hours, substandard accommodation. They’re caught in a trap. Report the employer, and their work visa or residence is invalid and they are punished by being sent home : don’t report the employer and they continue to put up with the unacceptable.

The outcome?  Labour and immigration laws are flouted with impunity, Kiwi jobs, wages and conditions are undermined, good employers doing the right thing get annoyed and our reputation for fairness takes another hit.

So, what’s our government doing?


Instead, it’s returned to its let’s copy Australia bill, the Immigration Amendment Bill, which now has the votes to get through and is likely to be debated next week.

According to John Key, we face the imminent threat of a mass arrival of asylum seekers.  He wants us to be fearful that a handful of people might, (but probably won’t) arrive in a leaky boat any day now.

John Key said he was vindicated this week when a boat from Sri Lanka arrived in Western Australia, flying a New Zealand flag and holding a sign saying they wanted to come to New Zealand.

Apart from the sheer impossibility of reaching New Zealand in a treacherous journey, John Key doesn’t appear to even understand the basics.

The rules are strict under the UNHCR convention. A person must request asylum at the earliest opportunity. It is impossible to arrive in Australia, as the Sri Lankans did this week and seek asylum in New Zealand.

Anyone claiming they want to come to New Zealand via the Australian coast by boat cannot apply for asylum here and if they did, they would become ineligible.

It’s gotten desperate when the reasonable voices in Australia include Malcolm Fraser, former Conservative Prime Minister, who says the claims of successive Australian governments are designed to justify a policy of brutality.

Former National Party Immigration Minister, Aussie Malcolm, says John Key’s actions in agreeing to take 150 Australian refugee as part of our quota is a tragedy.

This is a stupid bill. Parliament will waste time on it. It will pass by one vote and our reputation as a good international citizen will take a hit because the John Key government thinks it’s okay to copy the Aussies and put asylum seekers in detention centers.

The boat people will likely never arrive.

But the migrants who are already here will see the exploitation go on and on.

The government is turning a blind eye.

Which is the greater threat to New Zealand?

Update : This in today’s SST 

Where are they?

Posted by on February 17th, 2013

Last year, Labour questioned why a company called King Facade Ltd had been given approval in principle from Immigration New Zealand to bring in 110 “Facade Installers” from China on the basis that there were no New Zealanders skilled enough to do the work. There were  questions about the granting of this approval that were not satisfactorily answered by either the Minister of Immigration or Immigration New Zealand, with only a cursory attempt to find New Zealand workers, and a exaggeration of the skills required ensuring that any Kiwis would not meet the requirements.

The parent company of King Facade Ltd is Mainzeal, and this week King Facade Ltd also went into voluntary liquidation.

The then Associate Minister of Immigration, Kate Wilkinson gave assurances that the parent company Mainzeal had a good record with Work and Income. Another big justification from the government was that King Facade would work with Mainzeal and the Industry Training Organisation to develop a Facade Installer Apprenticeship programme, so New Zealanders would be skilled to do the work in future.

Well that’s all fallen over, along with the collapse of Mainzeal, the loss of jobs and contractors out of pocket.

Who knows what’s happened to the poor Chinese Migrant workers, who were promised a three year employment contract.

My guess is they were on the next flight home, with no pay in their pockets for the work they have done.


David Shearer and Clayton Cosgrove announced today that Labour will legislate for a fairer deal for subbies.

We are better than that

Posted by on September 6th, 2012




Tracey Barnett has put together this video and will be talking about the Immigration Amendment Bill (aka Mass Detentions Bill) tonight at the Devonport Library from 7.30pm.

I’m really pleased other people are talking about what this bill means. I have previously posted about my concerns and we do need to talk more about it. The bill has been reported back to parliament and you can read the Select Committee report, including Labour’s minority view here.

Crimestoppers – a new minimum wage enforcer?

Posted by on August 27th, 2012

One of the issues highlighted by the recent stories on migrant worker exploitation was a reluctance to complain about breaches of employment law because of fear around visa issues.

Examples are international students working in excess of their allowed hours of 20 hours a week and those here on work visas that are tied to the business, so they are effectively bonded to that employer – even if they are being paid less than the legal minimum wage.

How does Immigration NZ deal with migrant workers who want to complain about breaches of NZ employment law and minimum wage, but are fearful about the consequences.

They refer you to Crimestoppers and there seems to be no other way to complain. Immigration NZ advertises Crimestoppers up front under  “Report Immigration Fraud“.  You can either fill out an online complaint form which apparently goes to the on line site in the UK or ring their call centre, which is also in the UK.

Crimestoppers is also used by the Police, and probably very effectively, but is this the best alternative for migrant workers, who want to complain about breaches of minimum wage, but who are worried about being stung over their visa?

I’m not sure. Would be interested in your views.

New Zealand is better than this

Posted by on August 6th, 2012

The Immigration Amendment Bill is nearing its final stages in the Select Committee and will be reported back by September.  This was the bill that appeared from nowhere a couple of months back, right in the middle of the John Banks scandal.  It was a dog whistle John Howard would have been proud of  – designed by the government to divert attention and create a problem in people’s minds that doesn’t exist.  The language in introducing the bill was of “queue jumpers” and “illegal migrants” and  was about creating fear and prejudice.

The bill purports to prepare New Zealand for the unlikely event of a mass arrival (defined in the bill as more than 10 asylum seekers) and enables mass detention for up to six months. The explanatory note in the bill says that  it will “enhance New Zealand’s ability to deter people-smuggling to New Zealand by making it as unattractive as possible to people-smugglers and the people to whom they sell their services”.

But the Bill has no provisions for  sanctions against the activity of people-smuggling, but instead focuses on imposing sanctions on asylum seekers who arrive in New Zealand as part of a deemed “mass arrival”, by contrast with those who do not.

Meanwhile, the government has carried out  “Exercise Barrier” at a cost of $200,000, which apparently tested New Zealand’s systems in the event of a mass arrival.  The very name, “Barrier” and the photos of Customs and other officials pretending this was an SAS like military exercise say a lot.

Submitters on the bill have been overwhelmingly opposed to this bill and will probably be overwhelmingly ignored.

We have been warned that the provisions in this bill could be a political football in the way they have become in Australia. We have also been warned that New Zealand’s international reputation and compliance with the Refugee Convention will come under intense scrutiny.

Canada recently enacted a similar kind of bill.  It was extremely divisive and controversial and it’s probably no coincidence that the Canadian Act’s author, Jason Kenny, visited New Zealand last year and spent time with our Immigration and other Ministers.

New Zealand is better than this.

New portfolio – tell me what you think

Posted by on January 2nd, 2012

As you will have seen from Labour leader David Shearer’s recent reshuffle, all MPs, ranked or not, have been given significant portfolios.

I’ve got two portfolios – one I’ve had for the past year (labour) and a new one (immigration), both of which I am pleased to have been given.

Immigration is closely associated with labour market issues, so there are many questions.  For example  :

  1. Have we got the balance right between the need for skilled workers, and the growing skills gap among New Zealanders?
  2. When we bring skilled migrants to New Zealand, do we treat them fairly? (Lianne wrote an excellent piece on this last year)
  3. Are we taking the easy option in cases when it seems too hard to get Kiwis to work in low wage jobs – ie aged care and other caregiving work?
  4. Are our schemes, such as the RSE scheme working well, or are there things we could do better?
  5. Have the government’s schemes such as Immigration Plus or the Immigration Retirement Package for wealthy immigrants delivered?
  6. And the biggie : why does Australia continue to attract skilled migrants from New Zealand and what should be done about it?

Let me make it clear.  I’m not into attacking immigrant communities, or doing a Winston Peters. Immigration has been an essential part of New Zealand history and the building of our nation. We all came from somewhere else, whether it was in the last two centuries, or hundreds of years ago.  We all have family stories, some recent and some from times past.  They all contributed to who we are as Kiwis today, and will continue to do so.

But I am interested in how we do things better, more openly, more fairly and more transparently.

So your views are very welcome.

Are you a lazy and unmotivated NZ worker?

Posted by on August 8th, 2011

Because this farmer says you are.

According to Mr Bloem, who is a long term pig farmer, productivity has soared since he employed Filipino workers at its Highcliff piggery and his operation is producing an extra 1500 pigs a year from the same number of sows.

He had become frustrated with New Zealand workers who were “lazy, unmotivated and didn’t want to go the extra mile to learn anything”.

“In the end, I had nothing to lose,” he said.

This farmer was given a contact in the Phillipines through his pig-breeding company, and the contact’s uncle, brother-in-law and nephew came to work on the property about 2007.

Two of the Filipino workers remain on the property, while a third has moved on but has been replaced. Mr Bloem says they were all quick learners and very motivated to get excellence performance.

Mr Bloem says that in all his years as a pig farmer, there were probably only four or five staff that he would previously have considered worthwhile to send for further training. He encouraged training and one of his Filipino workers, Jimmy Malit, recently achieved a herd manager qualification through industry training organisation AgITO.

I don’t doubt Mr Bloem’s claim that the  Pork Industry is tough going. And I have no doubt that Filipino workers are motivated to work hard and do well so they can stay in New Zealand.

But additional questions for Mr Bloem I have include :

  • How much do you pay your workers?
  • How do you treat your workers?
  • How do you help ensure they have a future in the industry they can be part of, and proud of?

I’m not prejudging the answers.  I’m just saying that in my experience, NZ (and all) workers are only “lazy and unmotivated” where they are paid poorly and treated badly.

Or have I got that wrong?  Should they just be grateful to have a job?

I have no problem with skilled overseas workers coming to work in New Zealand.  But we need to ask questions where workers from other countries are doing the work no New Zealander will do because of low wages and poor treatment.

More feedback on Immigration Bill

Posted by on December 27th, 2010

I have been glad to receive feedback on my Private Members Bill from constituents and industry professionals alike.

Below is a message from one such industry professional:

Kia ora Raymond

Following up to our discussion about the availability of ESOL to our new migrants and people from refugee backgrounds, I thought you might be interested in some background documents.

The first (although it is attached as the last) details the funding cuts that were announced in the 2009 budget that affected directly the access to ESOL nationally.

The two others were in response to a request from the Wgtn Regional Settlement Strategy Leadership group (SSLG) to understand how funding changes were affecting the ability of people to access appropriate ESOL provision in the region; the first, is an attempt to quantify the loss of funding compiled early 2010 and the second, an update on the continuing impact of funding changes on ESOL provision for 2011.

Although the report and update are focusing on the Wgtn region, since this is where the Settlement Strategy Leadership group’s (SSLG) interest lies, the funding changes have had similar impact across the country. The SSLG sent a letter to the Tertiary Policy Group at Ministry of Education in late Nov. summarizing the impact and attaching these two reports.

I was impressed by your interest in being informed from the those of us in the field and it occurred to me when sitting in a reunion earlier this week of skilled migrants who have graduated from the Workplace Communication programme for skilled migrants at Victoria University of Wellington that there are some 150 very articulate and informative people able to describe their experience and what made the difference for them.

It struck me at the time that this would have been a magnificent opportunity to hear first-hand about their achievements in securing employment and how they are contributing to our economy. I wonder if you would be available to attend the graduation of the next group of 12 individuals which is scheduled for Monday 16 May 2011 at the VUW Railway Campus.

Meanwhile, it is time for a break! May you have a relaxing and fun summer break with family and friends.

Best wishes

Name withheld

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Filed under: asian

Here’s an Idea Minister – sort the muddle

Posted by on December 22nd, 2010

Thousands of carers employed by Idea Services will have to wait until February for the Court of Appeal’s decision on the sleepover case, where the Attorney General and IHC are appealing an Employment Court decision that ruled that sleeping over on an employer’s premises and being on call was “work” and should be paid the hourly minimum wage of $12.75 per hour.

But while the appeal drags on, there’s confusion between government departments about how to apply the Employment Court ruling.

On the one hand, existing workers continue to perform sleepovers at the fixed allowance of $34 a night, while the Department of Labour keeps its head down.

On the other hand, Immigration NZ is refusing to allow overseas workers  to work for Idea Services because they are “not complying with New Zealand employment laws” – specifically the Minimum Wage Act. They are applying this to both work permits and residency applications.

One young woman who has been in New Zealand for ten years studying and working as a Mental Health and Disability Support worker  had her application for residence turned down for this very reason.  She had a job offer from Idea Services, but her residency application based on her qualifications and job offer from Idea Services was rejected because “Idea Services is not complying with employment laws and therefore her employment creates unacceptable risks to the integrity of New Zealand’s laws and policies.”

Technically, Immigration NZ are correct.  Under policy SM7.20 : requirements for employers, all employers wishing to employ non-New Zealand citizens or residents must pay employees no less than the appropriate adult minimum wage or other contracted industry standard.”  I support this policy strongly, but how bizarre that one arm of government (Immigration NZ) says it’s not okay for Idea Services to employ workers in breach of the law, yet the other (Department of Labour) appears to think it is.

I’ve written to the Minister about the young woman’s case because either Idea Services is breaking the law, or it isn’t and there needs to be consistent application by government departments. She needs to sort this muddle out.

As for the government –  it’s joined the appeal and is poised to amend the Minimum Wage Act should the appeal fail, to avoid having to cough up the millions that will be needed for the backpay owed to New Zealand workers who continue to work for less than minimum wage.

Not much Xmas cheer for Idea Services workers.