New Zealand immigration investigating employers for visa scheme breaches


Immigration Minister Andrew Little said that the country’s Public Service Commission will review the AEWV scheme’s processes following complaints…reports Asian Lite News

Following complaints of worker exploitation and breaches of the work visa scheme, the immigration authorities in New Zealand are probing more than 160 accredited employers, according to a media report.

As of August 9, five employers have had their accreditation suspended and six revoked for breaching employment standards, false declarations, liquidation and having migrants working for them without valid working rights or in breach of visa conditions, The New Zealand Herald reported.

A 27-year-old migrant worker from Punjab told The Herald on condition of anonymity that he was assaulted and left at the airport in the early hours of the morning this month after failing to pay “extortion” money to his employer.

A painter by profession, the worker paid a fee of about $20,000 for his initial visa and arrived in New Zealand last month where he stayed with his employer’s family and three other colleagues in a two-bedroom house in Auckland.

He was not paid any wages for the three weeks that he worked but was instead asked by his employer to pay another $20,000, and was also threatened with deportation.

“I begged them to have mercy, but they said if I had no more money to give then they will deport me and ban me from coming back to NZ,” the painter told The Herald.

Following this, the employer and two of his colleagues assaulted the painter in the early hours on August 9 and drove him to Auckland Airport.

According to radio service RNZ, Immigration New Zealand (INZ) general manager Richard Owen said they were aware of migrants being charged between NZ$14,000 to over $30,000 by agents, and some being dismissed before even starting work.

The painter is now being helped by a social worker and the Takanini Gurdwara Sahib Sikh temple with accommodation and food.

Dalijit Singh, president of The Supreme Sikh Society of NZ, said the Indian painter was one of about 10 exploited migrant workers that are being referred to the temple every week.

Apart from India, there are workers from countries like Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and South America, according to an RNZ report.

“This is becoming a real problem since the start of this accredited employer programme,” Daljit told The Herald.

Steve Watson, Head of Immigration Compliance and Investigation, told The Herald that the agency has received a range of allegations and complaints, including worker exploitation, overstaying or people working or employing workers illegally.

However, he added that not all complaints are specific to the AEWV category.

“As of August 6, 2023, we are currently investigating 164 accredited employers. These investigations are in a variety of stages and we can’t comment on open investigations,” Watson said.

Meanwhile, Immigration Minister Andrew Little said that the country’s Public Service Commission will review the AEWV scheme’s processes following complaints.

Launched in 2022, the AEWV (Accredited Employer Work Visa) program, encourages businesses in the country to hire, train, and upskill workers.

Additionally, it offers qualified employees earning at least the New Zealand median hourly salary of NZD $29.66, a road to residency.

To obtain this visa, one needs employer accreditation, an employment check, and a visa application.

As per the report, more than 77,000 Accredited Employer Work Visas have been approved since the new visa opened in July 2022, and there are approximately 27,400 accredited employers.

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