Archive for November, 2010

Protected Migrants?

November 16, 2010

As reported on move2nz, the Immigration Advisers Authority (IAA) was launched on 5th May 2008 to “protect migrants and advisers alike“.

“Now we have a licensing regime in place which will not only protect vulnerable migrants, but also enhance the reputation of the industry.”
– Barry Smedts

In May 2009 the legislation for the IAA to police – the Immigration Advisers Licensing Act – came into force requiring advisers operating in New Zealand to be licensed. A year later this requirement was spread to all advisers around the world.

In May 2009 there were 184 advisers registered with the Authority and, noting that some of the worse offenders in the industry were listed as licensed I expressed concern that the IAA’s tagline of “Licensed Professionals = Protected Migrants” would mislead migrants into thinking they were safe.

18 months on we take a look at the steps that have been made to protect migrants.

Immigration Advisers Authority (IAA)

The IAA works to administrate licensing for advisers, investigate complaints against licensed advisers and also prosecute people without licenses who provide tailored immigration advice or present themselves as licensed.

In their October newsletter the IAA reported that they had achieved an additional 316 licenses in the past 18 months with 500 advisers now practicing with a license.

We’ll look at the Authority’s costs and performance against government targets in a future article.

Protection
So how has the Authority helped protect migrants? Well, while they protect us from anyone providing tailored immigration advice without a license, they also have gone to great lengths to protect you from immigration information too.

Sources of immigration information are perfectly legal and cover a massive range of subjects connected with migration.

Oddly the first acts taken by the IAA appear to have been attempts to silence blogs, forums and other sources of useful related information. Arguably removing these sources of information and networking, rather than providing protection, made migration more dangerous and difficult for migrants.

Immigration Advisers Complaints and Disciplinary Tribunal (IACDT)

While the IAA act as a police force collecting evidence on breaches of the Act the tribunal is the equivalent of the justice system’s court. No Tribunal, no protection for migrants or law-abiding advisers

Appointment of a chairperson for the IACDT was only announced on 13th October 2010 by the Ministers of Justice (Simon Power) and Immigration (Jonathan Coleman), oddly just one day before a TVNZ news report on the IAA and IACDT aired.

The TV report, which covered some of the problems move2nz had had with the IAA, also discussed the Tribunal and the fact that it was not yet hearing cases investigated by the IAA which had been languishing for months.

In addressing this issue Barry Smedts, Registrar of the IAA, had this to say:

“The first complaint was sent to the Tribunal in December last year, and there are now 23 complaints with the Tribunal. We acknowledge that the absence of a chair has created uncertainty for those advisers with outstanding complaints against them.”

Hmm, so protecting advisers (who support the IAA financially through their licensing fees) but no mention of protecting migrants. Mr. Smedts appears to have forgotten half of the IAA tagline “Licensed Professionals = Protected Migrants”.

The effect on migrants
Having spoken to a move2nz member who is one of the we cases waiting for a hearing I discovered they have already been waiting a year. No mention seems to have been made of the months of massive financial and mental suffering experienced by families like this at the hands of a licensed adviser but I am sure you will join Mr. Smedts in expressing sympathy for the uncertainty experienced by their adviser (who turned what should have been a simple migration application into a living nightmare).

In the latest IAA newsletter I found an amazing quote by the IAA Registrar:

“Complaints about licensed advisers is a relatively new aspect of the practical application of the Immigration Advisers Licensing Act 2007”

I assume that this was specifically what this department had been set up to do (“investigate and take enforcement action in relation to offences”). It appears that they are now only just getting to grips with this work and, despite their trigger-happy attitude to attacking non-advisers, are a little unnerved by the prospect of actually taking action against advisers they have licensed.

Chocolate teapotSo, after 18 months what is the rating we would give the IAA and IACDT for protecting migrants? The phrase “as useful as a chocolate teapot” comes to mind.

Facts

  • The IAA slogan Licensed Advisors = Protected Migrants
  • The Immigration Advisers Authority (IAA) launched on 5th May 2009
  • There are 500 licensed advisers according to their October 2010 Newsletter
  • The first complaint was sent to the Tribunal in December 2009
  • There are currently 23 complaints with the Tribunal
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