The Green Party wants to stop the exploitation of migrant workers.
This should be a priority for any Government as we seek to protect the rights of vulnerable workers and our international reputation, and ensure a level playing field for all businesses in New Zealand.
Along with many New Zealanders, we have been deeply affected by the terrible stories of exploitation.
Which is why it’s so disappointing that the Bill put forward by the government to protect these workers – the (Immigration Amendment Bill (No 2) – fails to actually do so.
After listening to all the submissions, considering the evidence, and getting feedback from the migrant workers union, the Green Party has decided to pull its support for the Bill.
The primary mechanism for ensuring the protection of workers is the creation of an environment to enable workers to report abuse. Workers are not going to report exploitation if they risk being deported.
Many of those who have and are being exploited are on temporary work visas that are tied to their employment. People are not going to report their employer if that negates the conditions of their visa.
Further we strongly believe the monitoring and surveillance role regarding employment conditions needs to be given to Labour inspectors. Giving this role to immigration officers,as the Bill proposes, and extending their search powers into private dwellings, without even the requirement for a warrant, risks increasing fear within the communities of people this is purporting to be helping.
The dawn raids were a shameful time in New Zealand history, and while some of us may feel this is a long time in the past, those memories are very much alive within some migrant communities.
We need to be focusing on building trust between immigration and migrant communities. Just because we might have faith in the intentions of immigration staff now we need to ensure our laws could not be used in unintended ways in the future.
Further within the bill is the ability to deport someone for providing incorrect information on a visa application, even if they didn’t know the information was incorrect and even if that information had absolutely no bearing on their application.
There will be discretion for the Minister not to deport someone and there will be the ability for people to appeal a deportation decision to the Immigration and Protection Tribunal. While this is some consolation in terms of basic access to justice, it will increase work for immigration officials assessing whether allegations of false information, not relevant to the granting of visas, are well founded.
It will also increase the number of cases going to the Minister for decision and the Immigration and Protection Tribunal for appeal. The current system is already overburdened and does not need this extra pressure which may well extend the already too long waiting times for refugee or other appeal cases.
When we asked if there was a problem that this policy was intended to address, we were told no it was just thought important as a point of principle.
The Green Party believes New Zealand urgently needs an effective process to protect migrant workers, Sadly this bill isn’t it.