Immigration scams justify Immigration New Zealand revamp

New Zealand has a reputation as being a welcoming place, a believer of giving everyone a fair go. But what happens when those coming to New Zealand – a country with one of the highest transparency ratings in the world – still think that the corrupt ways of their country of origin are acceptable here?

Does Immigration New Zealand need a complete overhaul to its systems and the governing laws? Or are the governing laws fine and it is just a matter of compliance and enforcing the existing legal framework?

The number and range of scams involving the immigration of people in New Zealand from other countries justifies a complete overhaul of how migrant visas are handled in New Zealand. Migrants coming here, establishing immigration consultancies that then proceed to rip off unsuspecting migrants who come here genuinely thinking that they are taking the first steps to a better life in New Zealand, are more often than not of the same nationalities as the migrants that are getting ripped off.

In other words the visa holders being ripped off are more likely than not having it done to them by their own countrymen – I will not name nationalities, except to say they are numerous. When one looks at why, it is not difficult to draw the conclusion that this is how they would have operated in their own country and concluded that they could get away with it in New Zealand – not realizing, or caring that the authorities here are not corrupt.

This neatly brings me to the thrust of my argument. Let us establish a compulsory register of all immigration consultants in New Zealand and give all of the existing ones six months to register or be struck off as illegal. Amend the legislation governing immigration to require that all registering consultants sit and obtain N.Z.I. approved certificates stating their suitability to operate as a licensed agent in New Zealand. Have them resit the certificate every few years. A database on the Immigration New Zealand website should contain the list of all qualified agents, all agents that have been struck off.

But let me be clear. The Immigration New Zealand agency should have an in house monitoring/compliance/enforcement team that oversees the compliance of agents in the same way that migrant visas are monitored – field staff visit employers with migrant workers to make sure they are legitimate; serve compliance notices when issues are spotted and shut down non-compliant agents. The embassies we maintain in countries overseas will be advised of changes to the law; whether applicants for visas meet the requirements – of good character; no criminal record and so forth.

As for the poor education provided, that is up to the Ministry of Education to sort out non-compliant academies and so forth. Immigration New Zealand can supply them data on who is suspect and who is not, but shutting down a place of learning, unless it is run by people who had no right to be in New Zealand in the first place, should be a Ministry of Education task.

The enforcement needs to be uniform from start to end – if an agent is found to be a fraud, deport them; if a doctor is found to be bogus and not qualified, deport him/her; if the operator of an education academy or other academic institution is not legally supposed to be in New Zealand, deport them.. And tell them that they are not welcome back, with the words “Do Not Return” stamped in a prominent place on their passport.

Kiwi identity politics in need of work

Earlier this week Green Party Member of Parliament Golriz Ghahraman

To his credit, Mr Plunkett has made amends and acknowledged the length of time that Ms Ghahraman has been here. And there is an element of truth in his words that it is a – potentially – complex subject. That said, the complexity of ones national identity depends on where they have been and who they have lived with.

I am straight out New Zealander. My brother can identify to some extent with the United States having lived there for six years and married a Minnesota native. I have a friend who is a native Colombian, but married to a New Zealander, and living in the San Francisco area. They have a daughter. I have two Peruvian friends whose two daughters were not born in Peru, but who hold Peruvian, American and New Zealand citizenship. They live in Los Angeles.

For some, anyone who moves to New Zealand, is not a Kiwi because they were simply not born here. For some these people will never be New Zealanders for that very reason. As sad as this is, it is true. It is people like these who have trouble accepting that New Zealand is a multicultural society that accepts anyone who is willing to abide by New Zealand laws and customs.

Chinese settlers who came for the gold rushes in Otago and the West Coast have had it particularly harshly. The yellow peril was a term applied to later generations, but early Chinese were subject to 55 individual legal amendments of an intentionally discriminatory nature. Yet their contributions to the gold rushes including mining in places no one else would go, establishing by line of site many kilometres of water races, some of which still function as such today, is immense. We can debate as we do what contribution some latter Chinese have made, yet 30 years ago it was Japanese immigrants being targeted and told to go home and subject to racist innuendo. I remember when Toyota’s, Subaru’s and other Japanese vehicles were uniformly labelled “Jap Crap”, which aside from being obviously derogatory in nature now, also ignores the very good performance of most Japanese made cars today.

More worrying today is this perception that Chinese are responsible for sky high prices of just about everything. As is the idea – fortunately a relatively isolated one – being spread by the National Front that white New Zealand is under attack.

Perhaps the most worrying part is the ignorance – willful or not – displayed by many towards refugees and asylum seekers coming from countries much less fortunate than New Zealand. We could be Syrians or Iraqi’s, Rohingya from Myanmar, all trying to get away from the certainty of grave harm to their individual beings, persecution for who they are and loss of identity – cannot stay where they are, but will anyone let them in?

Golriz Ghahraman did not come to New Zealand simply for money. She came here with her family because it was too dangerous for her to stay in Iran and she would have faced severe persecution, possibly death. Ms Ghahraman has been here for 28 years. In that time she has throroughly integrated into New Zealand society. If she can do it, others can too.

More refugees will come. As long as the West and Russia continue their filthy geopolitical games in the region, wars that the refugees have no control over will continue to rage. Communities will be wrecked there, but maybe they can spring up here.

Albeit with a distinctly Kiwi flavour.

Changes coming on migration

It was an election policy debate that split the country. The National Party said it would be discriminatory and send the wrong message to potential migrants. Labour said that the rate of migration 70,000 per year or roughly one Nelson size city (based on 2016 statistics) was unsustainable. Six months after the election, the Government has announced that changes are on the way for migration.

New Zealand First wanted to lower annual migration to 10,000 people a year. This was far lower than the 30,000 that Labour said would be its target.

I have no problems with migrants. I have an American sister-in-law living in New Zealand. I have met many great people who have New Zealand permanent residency or citizenship who came from other countries – Colombians, Peruvians, Indians, Filipinos, Iranians, Americans, Britons and many more.

Where my concern comes in is about making sure that New Zealand can accommodate migrants at the current rate, and sadly the answer is no. At least not without seriously degrading the living environment for the people who are already here and possibly arousing resentment as a result. It is that resentment that drives toxic elements such as the National Front. A multicultural New Zealand is what New Zealanders desire and as such we are probably as close as any other multicultural nation to successfully functioning as such.

Every person, migrant or citizen by birth, needs somewhere to live. That somewhere – house, flat, apartment, or otherwise – needs running water, electricity, a driveway or other vehicle access, sewerage disposal. The resources that are necessary to put all of this together have to come from somewhere.

Whilst most come intending to be useful migrants, there are a few who come with questionable motives in mind. These might be criminal elements looking to expand criminal empires based on fraud, drugs, trafficking and so forth. They might be people wanting to make a quick dollar as an employer by setting up a company, hiring at illegal rates and then disappearing again as soon as the authorities get whiff of what is happening. It is these people who need to be shown the strong arm of New Zealand law.

Is our immigration law perfect? Absolutely not. Which is why it is being changed – Immigration New Zealand have made their mistakes, but most of them were probably the result of half baked assessments being done by under resourced and possibly under paid staff struggling with a backlog of cases. Without commenting on any particular individual cases, the only expectation I have is that any person coming to New Zealand will be totally honest with Immigration New Zealand; that they will seek to clarify anything that they are uncertain about and that I.N.Z. will be completely transparent with them in return.

Common sense in other words.

New Zealand immigration needs to do due diligence on tradies

Over a six month period, an Immigration New Zealand/Police operation stopped 190 potential tradies whose immigration visas were found to be suspect. Some were stopped at the border and sent home before they could enter New Zealand. Some were caught on work sites and deported. Many more are most likely still here in some capacity.

The tradies commonly told the officials that “a man in a black Audi” would come around and pay them every Thursday. He would pay them $20 or $40/hr. Operation Spectrum as it was known also uncovered a weakness in New Zealand border security, that enables people who have left or been deported to return under new identities.

One of these non-compliant people is Adam Gan Bin Abdullah, from Malaysia. He was one of two who went on to get permanent residency. Last week he went to Manukau District Court to plead guilty to immigration fraud. Somehow though, Mr Abdullah found the gall to intone that he thought he could get away with it.

This is not an acceptable attitude for anyone hiring in New Zealand to have. One could go on about “when in Rome” and subsequent expectations, but the simple fact of the matter is New Zealand is supposed to have standards to promote and uphold and undermining them with such an attitude is clearly not going to achieve that task.

When an employer pays out in cash, it is time to pay attention. How do we know if he has paid A.C.C., deducted income tax and so forth from the money? If he has how do we know that it is accurate? And where are the paper records that he would be expected to keep when approached by Inland Revenue Department, that compliant New Zealand employers would keep?

When New Zealand Immigration goes over the visa applications for people such as the tradespeople that Mr Abdullah hired, whose role is it to check that they are actually qualified and not cowboys? Whose role is it to check that their visa applicants are true and correct?

Immigration New Zealand has improved its detection systems, with improved biometric data handling processes. It says that with these improvements New Zealand has a better chance of picking up frauds like Mr Abdullah at the border before they are let in.

Whilst that is good to hear, any person not born in New Zealand who knowingly violates New Zealand immigration law once should have a minimum non-entry period, with a warning that next time it is permanent.

Indian visa numbers plunge

Indian visa applications to New Zealand have taken a significant dive in the last few years.

Given India’s rapid population growth one might have thought that Indian tourists and visa holders would be accelerating. Apparently not.

The trend however seems to have started under the previous Government as the number of Indians seeking visas in New Zealand dropped in consecutive years from 25,977 in 2015 and 16,380 in 2017 to just 9,429 in 2017.

I personally have no ideas as to what might have fuelled the plunge other than a few broad theories:

  • The expat Indian community noticed a change in sentiment
  • Repeated concerns about the abuse of employees by a few ruined it for the many
  • New Zealand simply is not the safe place we claim it to be

What can be done?

To a large extent I think this problem is in our hands. We need to create the judicial conditions where all can come into the Police Station or where ever and tell the officer on duty what happened. We need to stop being complacent about the perception that New Zealand is clean/green when we have the poor environmental records to show it. The country is not and it is damaging our reputation.

I have no problems with Indian visa holders coming here and working. However New Zealand needs to do a much better job than it currently is ensuring that all visa applicants are:

  • Legitimate
  • Have the appropriate doocumentation
  • A willingness to set aside concerns in the immediate future after arriving in New Zealand and give oneself a reasonable chance. No one said it was a walk in the park.