One of the things that often gets thrown around the immigration debate is the value of immigrants economically. How much – in dollar terms – are immigrants contributing to their economy? How much – in dollar terms – are immigrants costing?
I want to take this opportunity to reaffirm our Green kaupapa on immigrants. We believe immigrants are humans with intrinsic worth, and we value immigration for more than just the economic benefits. Because this is something that the immigration debate often leaves out – immigrants are people. Each migrant brings with them a diversity of perspectives, life experiences and culture that can challenge the established way of doing things.
This expresses itself in lots of different ways – in cuisine, in fashion, in language and in culture as well. It is this that we should celebrate and support – how immigration has made us more diverse, more forward thinking and more open as a country.
Sadly, the Government’s own approach to immigration has focused on quantity of numbers rather than quality of support. Rather than ensuring that each migrant receives the manaakitanga of support, integration and language assistance, the Government treats immigrants as units of production to fill in skills shortages, or as bags of money for struggling tertiary institutions.
Recently this approach has led to a dangerous rise in ‘education trafficking’, where unscrupulous advisors mislead students into coming here under false promises. And the evidence is mounting that this abuse is rife across New Zealand. A 2013 report by MBIE estimated that 1 in 10 international students are being paid below the minimum wage, and a report by AUT in 2010 found even more serious numbers of underpayment.
Most shamefully, a 2012 AUT report on the experiences of international students and recent graduates working in the horticultural industry found that a shocking 93% were being paid below the minimum wage.
Instead of taking this laissez faire approach to immigration and prioritizing quantity over quality of support, we need to be doing a better job of supporting our migrant and diverse communities in New Zealand.
We need to be make sure that migrants are supported in keeping their cultural identities in New Zealand, and that’s why the Green Party is proud to support calls for a Hindi Language Week in New Zealand. We would support similar calls for a Tamil, Bengali and other language celebrations that reflect the diverse linguistic heritage of India.
But this is only one of the ways we can better support our migrant communities. By making sure we emphasize quality of support and not just quantity of numbers – we can guarantee that each and every migrant coming to beautiful Aotearoa is properly welcomed and reaches their full potential.