Posts Tagged ‘migrant’

Migrants accessing health care in New Zealand

November 30, 2013

Getting information about what healthcare migrants can access in New Zealand is a bit of a problem which is starting to cause issues – I saw the following article in the paper today:

Migrants ‘clogging’ hospital

Christchurch Hospital’s emergency department (ED) is the busiest it has ever been and foreign rebuild workers have been pinpointed as the likely main cause.

Migrant workers with illnesses as minor as colds are “clogging up” ED because they are not enrolling with GPs in Christchurch, a business leader says.

The city’s health sector is calling for the workers to enrol at medical practices to take pressure off the hospital.

You can read the whole article here

Christchurch rebuild

This is not a new problem at all, I’ve seen these issues in Christchurch since 2006 when move2nz launched our migrant centre as a dedicated resource to help skilled migrants.

Now working as a licensed immigration adviser in the centre of Christchurch with rebuild workers every day I see this problem close up. This problem is growing more apparent simply because of the number of people coming in to help with the rebuild.

Rebuild workers fall into two main groups:

  1. Young people on Working Holiday Visas
    These generally cover only a year and the workers are required to hold medical and comprehensive hospitalisation insurance for the length of their stay.

    The exception is the UK scheme where the visa can be for up to 23 months and no medical insurance is required because there is a reciprocal agreement between New Zealand and the UK.

  2. Skilled workers on work visas
    These visas can be for up to three years although many (especially for lower skilled job like truck and digger drivers, and scaffolders) are just for one year.

So how do these workers access healthcare and what differences are there between them?

Accidents

Many rebuild workers are in hard physical jobs where accidents can happen. Luckily New Zealand has an accident compensation scheme: ACC.

This is a ‘no fault’ universal accident insurance scheme which covers treatment costs for accidental injuries whether you are a citizen or just a visitor, whether you had an accident at work or cycling up in the hills.

Anyone having an accident can access hospital so there is no difference between our two groups except that as ‘part charges’ may apply medical insurance could be useful.

One thing to be aware of however is that while ACC covers injury-related treatment it does not cover repatriation expenses. It is a good idea to have comprehensive travel insurance to cover this.

Warning: Check the small-print on your medical insurance. This year a migrant who had come to me for immigration advice sadly died in a climbing accident. Due to a technicality in his medical insurance the company refused to fly his body home (on the basis he hadn’t been resident in the UK for six months before he took out the policy).

Make sure you don’t encounter the same problem by checking the small-print on your policy.

In an emergency dial 111 and ask for an ambulance

Public healthcare

This falls into two areas and there can be important differences for migrants:

  1. General Practitioner (GP)
    These handle all general medical and wellness issues and should be your first port of call if you are unwell. Registering with a GP is recommended, you can search for  a GP near you using the interactive map.
  2. Hospital Care
    There is a strong drive to keep hospitals free to stop them getting bogged down and for this reason before heading to a hospital you should try:

Importantly there can be costs accessing any medical services.

Free Public Health Care
For those who qualify for free public health care you can access:

  • free public hospital treatment
  • free treatment at public hospital 24-hour accident and emergency (A&E) clinics
  • subsidies on prescription items
  • subsidised fees for visits to GPs.
  • subsidised fees for specialist care (such as physiotherapists) when referred by a GP for an accident case
  • free or subsidised health care if suffering from acute or chronic medical conditions
  • no charge for most laboratory tests and x-rays, except at privately operated clinics
  • no charge for public health care during pregnancy and childbirth
  • no charge for GP referrals to a public hospital for treatment
  • subsidies for children under six for visits to the doctor and prescriptions (most visits to the doctor  and prescribed medicines for small children are free)
  • free breast screening for women aged between 45 and 69.

Your can check your eligibility for free healthcare – if you have a work visa lasting at least two years for example or come from the UK or Australia you are covered.

The Problem

The real problems here then are that:

  • Many migrants do not register with a GP and do not know where to go for medical help, for this reason they end up at the hospital which doesn’t have the resources to cope.
    • Solution:
      Register with a GP and follow the links in this article to find out more about health services in Christchurch. Go to the appropriate medical service if you need care, leaving the hospital as a last resort.
  • Some people on Working Holiday Visas do not have the comprehensive medical insurance they are required to have, making them vulnerable to mishap.
    • Solution:
      Make sure you have comprehensive medical insurance and check the small-print to make sure you are covered right through your stay in New Zealand, not just the first 6 months. Repatriation in case of serious mishap is an important inclusion.
  • There is a small group that fall outside health provisions: people on a one year work visa. This group do not have access to free healthcare and often do not have medical insurance. This makes them highly vulnerable and often they will not realise until something goes wrong. People in this situation can end up with large and unexpected medical bills.
    • Solution:
      Take out comprehensive medical insurance!

So if you are in Christchurch get searching for a GP near you and register. Find out where your local medical services are (there is a handy interactive map here including GPs and pharmacies) and take care of yourself.

If you are having difficulties access medical care let us know by posting about your experiences below ;o).

Mike Bell


Mike is architect of migrant community move2nz.com, a migrant advocate, and a qualified and licensed immigration adviser.

 

Useful links for Christchurch:

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Hospital jobs elude migrants

November 10, 2013

An interesting article in the news today regarding changes to job opportunities for migrant doctors in New Zealand.

New Zealand’s immigration system is intended to bring in key staff to fill skill-gaps. Of course skill gaps change as the New Zealand government create training opportunities to meet these.

In this ever-changing landscape it is important for anyone thinking of coming to New Zealand to have solid information on how badly their skills are needed as well as training or registration requirements.

Medical jobs have always been in demand – they make up half of the Long Term Skill Shortage List – but this article just goes to show that nothing should be relied upon.

Hospital jobs elude migrants

Immigration officials will consider removing general practitioners from a skills shortage list as newly qualified immigrant doctors struggle to find jobs in hospitals.

Despite being New Zealand citizens and passing English and clinical competency exams, migrant doctors say they are being locked out of work.

Their concerns come on top of young Kiwi doctors struggling to find jobs in Auckland on graduation, as revealed last week in the Herald on Sunday.

Doctors from non-western countries must pass a New Zealand Registration Examination (NZREX) and work for a year under observation before they can be registered. Morella Lascurain, an NZREX-qualified doctor who runs a private health centre in Auckland, said the NZREX pathway had become a dead-end street.

She knows of at least 22 doctors from African, Middle Eastern and Asian countries who had passed the exam but were unable to find work as house officers. One of those included an ophthalmologist with 20 years’ experience.

Read the rest of the article on the New Zealand Herald here.

Any medical staff thinking of coming to New Zealand to look for work will need to check carefully that there is demand for their skills and find out what the registration requirements are to work here..

A good place to start checking are the District Health Boards throughout New Zealand. These usually have good HR staff and can give you good feedback on where they are struggling to find key staff .

Mike Bell


Mike is architect of migrant community move2nz.com, a migrant advocate, and a qualified and licensed immigration adviser.

Racism, sexism or just failing skilled migrants?

January 18, 2012

Here’s an interesting story that has come up in the Herald:

Female mechanic claims sexism

A qualified mechanic says she is being rejected by employers because of her ethnicity and gender.

Indian migrant Rushika Patel, 30, faces deportation if she cannot find work in the next six months.

Patel graduated in July last year with a degree in automotive engineering and has lost count of the jobs she has since missed out on.

The Glenfield resident says she is being rejected because she is an Indian woman trying to enter a male-dominated industry.

What do you think about this?

This story to me highlights a deep unfairness in the New Zealand Immigration system. Not the kind of whinging “life’s not fair” many would expect, more a case that good people acting in good faith have not been given a fair go.

Here’s how I view this problem being created:

  • NZ decides it needs qualified mechanics but does not have enough;
  • The skills is officially added to the Immigration department’s Immediate Skill Shortage List for all areas of NZ;
  • The immigration department encourages people from overseas to come to NZ to fill these shortages;
  • People come confident that their skills are needed, paying fees and levies to the government, bringing all of their wealth to NZ and investing their futures here;
  • Many people arriving discover the disconnect between immigration requirements and employer needs – realising that although immigration accepted their qualifications NZ employers will not;
  • If the person’s skills are not recognised they must then  pay international fees (in this case $60,000) to gain NZ qualifications on the understanding that they can then get work;
  • Applicants rightly assume that only recognised qualifications accepted by industry would ever be used in these circumstances and so confidently pay the fees and also tens of thousands to support themselves while they study;
  • Once qualified the person can only work (in this case) as a mechanic. They can’t start a business, claim benefits or work in any other field. While unemployed and looking for work they have no source of income or assistance from NZ;
  • After all of this if they don’t find a job within 12 months they can be deported.

Now flick this around and imagine that you as a New Zealander were being encouraged by the UK or USA to come and work on the basis that you and your family might be able to stay permanently.

When you arrive you are told your qualifications aren’t good enough and you’ll have to pay $60,000 to up-skill. Then you are put on a course which will give you a qualification employers will not accept.

How would you feel if at the end of this process you were deported back to NZ having been effectively stripped of all of your savings? I’d call that unfair but that is exactly what is happening here.

Unfortunately the facts are not widely understood by mainstream New Zealanders – most people view migrants as taking limited jobs rather than filling gaps, helping employers grow and creating additional jobs for kiwis.

If this system was set up correctly it would ensure that:

  • New Zealand gets the skilled workers we need to fill shortages and create jobs;
  • There is good and transparent information to help people make good decisions before setting out to NZ on issues like qualifications, skill shortages, employability and chances of success.

This would create a situation where NZ gets what it needs and migrants are able to make informed decisions.

Unfortunately the current system is not delivering. It is becoming less and less transparent, bureaucracy has increased, errors and inconsistencies have crept in (such as people are being charged tens of thousands of dollars in international tuition fees to take courses which are not accepted by employers) and many migrants are being stripped of savings and sent packing.

Is this how kiwis want New Zealand to be? A honey trap for highly skilled workers?

Or do we want a system that delivers huge economic and cultural benefit to the country. In 2006 the same number of migrants currently in the quotas contributed $8.1 billion to New Zealand’s economy. Think about that – without increasing the number of migrants how many jobs could be created? How many struggling businesses supported?

In this situation a family has received poor information which has lead them into a situation where they could lose all they have worked for through no fault of their own. Fairness should be a cornerstone of immigration policy ensuring that people are given all of the information they need when they need it to make informed decisions.

When there is a risk they should know what that risk is and what their chances of success are just as any kiwi heading overseas would want.

I would argue that these unfair situations hurt New Zealand and should be corrected to make sure that our immigration system provides exactly the workers our employers need but cannot find locally.

Is that too much to ask?

Mike
Site achitect, www.move2nz.com

New Zealand to deport abused wife

July 24, 2011

Another story of the immigration department strictly adhering to rules when a little compassion might be in order:

Govt tries to depart bashed wife
A woman who has lived in New Zealand for four years and left her abusive husband has been denied residency because of his convictions for crimes against her.

The plight of Charmain Timmons and her children, who are now illegal immigrants, has outraged Women’s Refuge, which says the Paraparaumu family should not have to suffer twice because of his cruelty.

I get the feeling from this story that there are mistakes in this article (for example I’ve never heard of the NZ government issuing a 2 year visitor’s visa!).

This will be a case to watch. Presumably under strict rules although Charmain had been approved Residency in principle there would have been a requirement for her husband to continue in his job.

As this was not done (because of domestic violence) that would be a reason for an application to fail, however this story is suggesting that the reason is her husband’s abuse somehow reflecting on her.

I am rather disappointed with the Immigration and Protection Tribunal, it seems to have changed entirely since being combined and reformed with other tribunals. Previously they appeared independent and sound, now they just seem to echo the government which is a real shame.

There appears to be an appeal to the Associate Minister so we’ll see what happens there. Such an appeal should be the safety net for people being treated unfairly however the current Minister very rarely intercedes.

Over to you Kate Wilkinson. Will you stop what appears to be a miscarriage of justice?

P.S. If anyone knows Charmain please ask her to get in touch with me. move2nz helped support and campaign on behalf of Martyn Payne, hopefully helping along the way, and would love to help in this case!

Overstayer

May 28, 2011

My impression is that overstayers are not welcome in New Zealand.

Often the word ‘bludger’ is associated with the word ‘overstayer’, seen as someone who came in to New Zealand on false pretences (for example as a tourist or visiting family) and now takes from the system (health, benefits, housing etc.) without paying in.

The Collins English Dictionary’s NZ definition is:
“overstayer: one who stays beyond the end time of an immigration work permit”

This adds up to a powerful and emotive label: ‘overstayer’.

Imagine being labelled an overstayer by the immigration department and told you are going to be deported. That wouldn’t be too cool.

It might surprise you to learn that this is happening increasingly to people who came to New Zealand in good faith – offering skills, business expertise and investment – through no fault of their own.

How to become an overstayer
Skilled workers and entrepreneurs are finding that the journey to Permanent Residency in New Zealand is a lot more dangerous than it used to be.

Although it sounds obvious and simple, temporary migrant’s status in New Zealand is based on their visa. Step outside the bounds of the visa and they lose their status.

All you have to do is get pregnant, get sick, split with your partner (even as a result of domestic abuse), or be made redundant and you too could be instantly win the title of ‘overstayer’. Your kids blocked from school, blocked from working, no benefits or services to help you and vilified as a result of your new title.

It’s actually easier than that. Just find yourself surplus to requirements, get a promotion,  get ripped off by a university or get stiffed by your employer. You can even be labelled an overstayer and deported because the immigration department takes too long to process your visa.

Overstayer has become a useful term. In the past immigration would listen to each situation and take a sensible, compassionate approach. This appears to have stopped with some pretty inhumane decisions being enforced, but no one will raise a cry because it’s a good thing to get rid of overstayers, right?.

Migration to New Zealand has become like a high trapeze act. The trouble is that the people flying through the process don’t realise that the safety net has been removed. Just one tiny issue can see an applicant labelled overstayer overnight and given the stark choice to leave New Zealand or be deported.

Who does this affect?
The Immigration department will tell you that temporary visas are just that, temporary and should not be expected to be anything else. But in saying this they are ignoring their own research which confirms the vital link between temporary visas and permanent status:

“More than 8 out of every 10 people approved permanent residence in New Zealand have previous experience as a temporary migrant.”

 – source 

So the people affected are the ones who “add an estimated $1.9 billion to the New Zealand economy every year” according to Dr. Jonathan Coleman, the Immigration Minister.

To be taken seriously as a migrant you have to commit to your move, selling up and risking everything for a better life in New Zealand. Increasingly people who come to New Zealand in good faith are losing everything because of aggressive bureaucracy.

Most recently I have been contacted by:

  • a worker who was terrified after his case-officer told him he was in serious trouble because he had taken a promotion at work – his job title was on his visa meaning he had been working illegally; and
  • good friends whose parents have been told they will be deported because immigration has taken three years to process their application under the Parent Category and recently the father (an experienced engineer) lost his job due to the Canterbury earthquake.

So be aware. Anyone moving to New Zealand, working or running a business here without Permanent Residency can very easily become an overstayer literally overnight. Just one slip and they find there was no net.

When Immigration or media use the term ‘overstayer’ remember it might be a very different story than you might think.

(Note: I am not a licensed immigration adviser and this article is not tailored immigration advice).

A year in immigration: Residency selections

January 21, 2011

Mike Bell, move2nz.com site architectPlease note:
I am not a licensed immigration adviser and the following is intended to be general discussion and commentary. It is not immigration advice and should not be used as such.

New Zealand Residence Programme
Fortnightly Selection Statistics – 2009 and 2010
Selections are made every fortnight and usually I would discuss numbers for a single selection, however since the start of 2010 the selections show little change.

So instead I’ve put together a comparison between the whole of 2010 against the previous year to give you an idea of trends in EOI (Expression of Interest) selections.

Note:
The Immigration department’s year runs from July, not January. However the wholesale change in selections started from January 2010, so we’ll look at the calendar year as this is quite illuminating!


Applications selected
Anyone reading my newsletters on a regular basis through 2010 would have heard me mention that the number of applications being selected had dropped. Public announcements from the Minister of Immigration stated that quotas were unchanged and confirmed the importance of maintaining immigration levels for growth and income.

Individuals Selected
Individuals Selected

Looking at the numbers for the whole year it’s pretty clear now as there was a 16.9 percent drop in selections when compared to 2009.

That’s 3,229 less applications into the system or 7,817 people over the year. To put it another way, on average 157 less applications were pulled from the pool (or 376 people) every fortnight, a sizeable drop.

This is potentially a problem for the department as the minimum quota for Residency under the Skilled Migrant Category (shown in red on the graph above) is 27,000 (based on skilled migration making up 60% of Residence).

While 30,454 applications were selected the immigration department are declining more than ever with a massive 13.84% of Residency applications through 2010 closed out. This would leave only 26,238 making it through the system, falling well short of the threshhold.

This should mean that the numbers being selected will need to rise before July to make up the shortfall of over 700 people.

Decline rates have climbed successively over the past four years, up from 12.02% in 2009, 10.24% in 2008 and 8.4% in 2007.


EOIs Selected
EOIs Selected

With or Without Job Offers
Comparing selections made through 2009 and 2010 with a view to which claimed points for current work or a job offer highlights an immediate and significant difference.

While the number of selections including points for a job or job offer remained largely the same (with just a 6 percent drop), selections for applicants without a job plummeted by 44 percent.

This perhaps shouldn’t be a surprise as New Zealand continues to wallow in recession without any real progress. The Immigration department is clearly favouring people with job offers and this confirms a good number of people are still being successful gaining job offers which I find encouraging.

It does not however explain the rise in applications being declined. Anecdotally the application of market testing to applications (based on inaccurate data from the Work and Income database) is scuppering many applications on the basis there are New Zealanders to take the role.

Unfortunately in many cases these NZ individuals do not actually exist leaving migrants and employers out in the cold and unable to protect themselves from what has become an extremely unpredicatable system.


Selection groups
When comparing selections I often refer to the seven groups immigration uses to categorise the figures.

EOIs Selected by GroupThese seven groups run from ‘140 points or more with a job offer’ (or “this way sir”) through to what I call ‘Other’ (EOIs with a high points total less than 140, but without points for employment, work experience or qualifications).
In 2009 there was a fairly good spread across all seven groups meaning that any applications entered (and meeting published criteria) had a fair chance of being selected.

EOIs Selected by Group
EOIs Selected by Group

Looking at numbers for 2010 show that a different pattern emerged that has not been published or even mentioned to migrants paying their money to apply. There were increases in all five of the ‘top’ groups with a big percentage increase in group 1 showing that there was only a small drop in real terms of very high scoring applications.

However only 16 applications were made for group six – down from 1,421 in 2009 – and those were pulled from the pool in the very last selection of the year on 15th December.

Not a single application from group 7 was made.

This raises an interesting question as it suggests that anyone who entered an application in 2010 falling into group seven (i.e. no additional points for job, work experience or a qualification in an area of absolute shortage) had no chance at all of being selected!

I don’t have access to numbers of people entering such applications, but I expect they might be surprised to find out they never actually stood a chance despite meeting published criteria and paying the requisite fee. I’ll be asking the immigration department whether a change has been made in selection criteria and will report back if they answer me.

2009 2010 % diff
1) 140 points + job offer 8,495 (49.7%) 7,909 (57%) +7.3%
2) 140 points without job offer 1,176 (6.9%) 1,300 (9.4%) +2.5%
3) 100-135 points + job offer 2,600 (15.2%) 2,572 (18.5%) +3.3%
4) 15 points for work experience* 1,204 (7%) 1,284 (9.3%) +2.2%
5) 10 points for work experience* 966 (5.6%) 792 (5.7%) +0.1%
6) 10 points for qualification* 1,421 (8.3%) 16 (0.1%) -8.2%
7) Other 1,241 (7.3%) 0 (0%) -7.3%

(*Work experience and qualifications in an area of absolute skill shortage)

Figures used in this report are taken from Immigration New Zealand information released through the INZ website.

Calling all teachers

January 10, 2011

Are you a teacher having trouble getting your qualifications recognised in New Zealand?

I would like to build a picture of what is happening and collect first-hand reports.

It appears that some overseas (from the UK only I believe but prove me wrong) teaching qualifications are not accepted by NZQA. Although introduced over a decade ago NZQA appears not to have updated it’s database.

In the meantime I am hearing more and more stories of teachers expecting to be able to find work only to realise they are completely unable to operate in their field of expertise. Rather than watching the number of experienced and qualified teachers working in supermarkets increase I’d like to do something about this.

Making a difference
My intention is to put together a report on this and generate pressure through various means (direct, political and through the media) to have this situation addressed properly.

If you have first-hand experience of this situation or information to help me please send me a private message or post on this blog.

Thanks for your help!

Mike

A meeting with the Immigration Advisers Authority

December 24, 2010

TV3 interview July 2009

TV3 interview July 2009

Many reading this blog may not be aware of move2nz’s fight for justice, but it still continues.

I have been pretty quiet on this issue since my last update in July titled Happy Anniversary, only mentioning our fight in my October article move2nz in the news when TVNZ ran an update on what had happened.

I promised an update when something happened and, well something has happened – things are starting to get very interesting!

What’s it all about?
For anyone coming across this topic for the first time you might not realise that move2nz used to be much more than the website move2nz.com. Until July 2009 Tammy and I ran and funded a range of unique services including a Migrant Centre in Christchurch offering free settlement support to several thousand familes each year.

But in July 2009 everything except the website was closed because the Immigration Advisers Authority (IAA) served a notice on me: a bombshell which rocked move2nz. In a nutshell the notice told me that I had broken the law (by presenting myself as a licensed adviser and providing immigration advice) and could go to jail for seven years if I did it again.

No smoke without fire
I had been in the middle of a media campaign through print, radio and TV to draw attention to what the immigration department was doing to what turned out to be nearly a thousand families – kicking them out of the country.

Naturally I asked what I was alleged to have done and unbelievably have been fighting ever since for an answer as the IAA just wouldn’t tell me. In self defence we had to close our Centre and cancel our overseas Seminars until we got to the truth.

This was devastating to move2nz as many people just assumed the IAA were correct. This included not only businesses but also Immigration department staff we had been working with for years.

Many people just assumed there was ‘no smoke without fire’ and said it served me right.

Getting to the truth
It’s been a long hard road fighting for 18 months to get information from the IAA. When they wouldn’t reply to me last year I asked for a copy of their file on me to see if I could work out what I was supposed to have done.

The IAA withheld nearly all (87%) of the file and I was forced to complain in October 2009 to the government’s watchdog the Ombudsman to ask for the documents. Of course after I complained the Registrar of the IAA refused to meet with me leaving this the only way to get information.

Owing to pressure from the Chief Ombudsman the IAA have gradually been forced to hand the information over bit by bit and this week we received the Ombudsman’s final report which upholds nearly all of my complaints. The Authority couldn’t block us any more and had to send us the information we needed.

Finally we understand
It made for interesting reading I can tell you and we were finally able to confirm our suspicians that the Authority had no basis to state I had broken the law.

Our case was strengthened when we asked for papers from the office of the Minister of Immigration which showed that important information had never been reported to the Minister, the evidence collected “circumstantial at best” and the reason for sending the original notice “flawed”.

So that was it – the Authority couldn’t tell me how I had broken the law because I hadn’t! So why the hell hadn’t they said so? From the files we could see that when the Authority had been told we would have to stop running our services to avoid prosecution until they told us what was going the team leader had actually directed the ‘investigator’ not to answer!

Enough’s enough
I wrote to the Registrar of the Authority Barry Smedts listing in date order the failures of the department he was responsible for in handling this case. To ensure the Minister knew exactly what was going on I sent him a copy of the letter and also sent copies to three MPs who know about the case and two reporters who have run stories about the case – Lincoln Tan of the NZ Herald and Kim Vinnel of TVNZ.

Within a week the Minister wrote to tell me that we had what we had been trying to get for a year: a meeting with the IAA. I have to hand it to Jonathan Coleman, although I have been critcising virtually everything he has done since he took the job in November 2008 he came through with this.

Meeting with the IAA
Tammy and I knew we had to be ready and prepared. In fact we spent several days preparing for the meeting – cross-referencing everything and putting together a set of questions which would leave us in no doubt as to what had happened and why.

We also asked our lawyer to accompany us for legal advice and asked Hon Lianne Dalziel, MP for Christchurch East to lend her considerable expertise to the discussion. As Lianne, a long time supporter of move2nz’s work in helping skilled migrants, was the Minister of Immigration who started off the legislation which created the IAA her attendance was an incredible help.

The meeting was held on Tuesday 21st December with Barry Smedts (IAA Registrar), George Mason (acting Deputy Chief Executive, Legal and International Group), and Catherine Albiston (IAA Senior Adviser Operational Policy). A conversation with Catherine had actually been the reason we got a meeting last year with another senior member of the IAA

Unfortunately the meeting had to be confidential to ensure frank discussion so I can’t give you a blow by blow account of what happened during the 4½ hours.

A great result
Suffice it to say that I got to ask some serious questions and put the Authority under the spotlight. Tammy got to tell the Authority staff just how massively this travesty has hurt us emotionally and financially – it’s not much fun to live in fear of losing everything including your home for a whole year.

Lianne did a fanastic job in keeping the meeting positive and moving forwards to a suitable resolution. Leroy our lawyer did a great job just being there as it turned out he had flu but had come because we needed him! I must admit that I was impressed by Catherine who was extremely competent and also with George Mason who handled this difficult situation extremely well.

I’m not sure what I am allowed to say at this stage, but Tammy and I were delighted with the progress made. We’re not finished yet, there is a way to go, but we have many of the answers we were looking for and the Authority will be putting together a public statement about the findings of the meeting to be released in the New Year.

Thanks to everyone who has sent messages of support to keep us going through this difficult time, especially our amazing friends Kim and George who were the reason we made it through last Christmas. Thanks to Lianne and many other people behind the scenes including Jim Anderton our local MP who have given us advice and support.

After living a nightmare for 18 months Tammy and I both feel as if a huge weight has been lifted off us. We would celebrate but we’re too tired.

What this does mean is that 2011 is going to be great year for move2nz and we hope to be able to lend our support to the IAA to help them get the rogue licensed immigration advisers closed down. I’d call that a win-win situation.

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

Minister’s treatment of migrants shames New Zealand

August 26, 2010

On the weekend I spoke at the annual Diversity Forum’s Shout Out 2 (organised by the Human Rights Commission and hosted by Migrante Aotearoa) on the increased vulnerability of skilled workers in New Zealand. 
 
My speech pointed out that Permanent Residents (as confirmed by the Immigration Minister Jonathan Coleman) are vital to every New Zealander’s per capita income as they bring billions of dollars into the NZ economy every year. Income which goes straight into local businesses creating prosperity and jobs.

Strangely in this time of recession however the NZ government have decided to cut migration by a third and concentrate instead on a tiny number of big investors who would pay money straight to them instead. The fact that this would cut income for NZ by nearly a billion dollars a year does not seem to matter.
 
I went on to explain how the path most migrants take was created by legislation introduced in 2005, forcing upwards of 85 percent of Permanent Residents to commit everything to their migration (quitting their job, selling their home etc.) to walk an uncertain path of vulnerability through temporary work visas while their Residency is processed over the course of months or sometimes years.
 
This I explained was the main reason for the vulnerability of migrants interested in adding value to New Zealand.

However that vulnerability has been massively increased not by the recession (as good management would easily avoid that issue) by due to unofficial changes introduced by the Immigration Minister.

Migrants made more vulnerable
Migrants are now more vulnerable for longer as they are subjected to an unfair and unpredicatable system.

I’ll post my speech on this site soon when I get a moment, but wanted to mention a perfect example which highlights my point. 

A family in Queenstown have been in NZ since 2007 working and preparing for applying for Residency. While taking the medical for their Residency application they discovered that Barbara was pregnant. 

A shocking decision
The immigration department’s response was to immediately put a block on their Residency application and stand down their temporary work permits. Pregnancy you see is considered an illness. 

The immigration department have created a situation where unless this family kill their unborn child they will lose everything they have worked for an be deported.

As extra pressure this couple are blocked from working in thier jobs and they are not eligible for any form of benefits. They have a 4 year old and will eventually run out of savings and end up out on the streets.

Did I mention it’s usually below zero centigrade in Queenstown overnight?

The most recent article in the Southland Times confirms that the family’s electricity will soon be cut off.

This brave family refuse to terminate their child.
 
A cruel system 
Despite playing by the rules and committing everything to their migration this family will be blocked and kicked out.

This callous and quite simply stupid treatment is a hallmark of Jonathan Coleman and shows just how vulnerable migrants now are in New Zealand.
 
Is this a good choice for the employer/business who needs a Stone Mason?

Is it a good choice for New Zealand?

New Zealand people with their strong sense of community are not like this and the Minister’s position I believe shames this proud country.