Recently there was a report that hundreds of work visa holders in New Zealand, mainly Filipinos, may have been duped in a visa scam. Today an arrest was made in the case, and the Minister for Immigration, Michael Woodhouse has admitted that there may be up to 1700 people affected.
The workers, who are very vulnerable because they are at the mercy of their employers who will often take their passports off them, often do not realize that they have rights under New Zealand employment law. They have family at home whom they are working to support, and are thus in need of a steady work stream. Many of them come through third party agents claiming to be reputable, but whom are often out to make a fast dollar out of people who lack the knowledge or the means to protect themselves legally.
Whilst I welcome the news that the Minister is working with officials to overhaul the visa requirements to ensure that those who are already in New Zealand do not get unduly punished, I am concerned that this is skirting around the edge of a bigger problem with how immigration works in New Zealand. Particularly I am concerned about how immigration consultants get registered, how they are regulated and whether or not there is an ethics/disciplinary committee to examine and resolve matters of such nature. We see on television immigrant officials making raids on properties where illegals are thought to be staying, which is great, but we never hear about immigration consultants who have gone rogue despite it being clearly obvious there are a few about.
Immigration New Zealand says that all immigration advisers have to be licensed unless they meet certain criteria. They will refuse a visa application if they detect that ones immigration adviser is not licensed. That is all well and good, but what are Immigration New Zealand doing to ensure that potential migrants are able to find out about the visa process? I suggest:
- An online register of Licensed Immigration Advisers and their status (Full/Provisional/Limited)should be linked to the Immigration New Zealand website – currently it is find on the Immigration Advisers Authority page, which I doubt the vast majority of New Zealanders knows about, much less migrants
- Countries with diplomatic missions to New Zealand should be asked to have a direct link to the Immigration New Zealand website on their webpage
- Countries supplying New Zealand with large numbers of workers, such as the Philippines be required to recognize an accord that lays down New Zealand visa requirements – one might exist already, but if it does, its public visibility is not very good
How other nations view New Zealand depends on how we treat their workers. If we want to improve our image, which in some industries is viewed as that of the “wild west” (in fisheries with regards to occupational safety and health issues), then we must address this issue more thoroughly.