26 August 2009
MP gives public support for migrants to New Zealand
New Zealand migrant support groups seeking amnesty for unemployed overstayers say they are encouraged by support from National MP Jackie Blue.
Migrant Action Trust is currently organising a second public forum on the plight of out-of-work migrants in New Zealand after Immigration Minister Jonathan Coleman turned down suggestions the group made in a position paper.
Dr Blue, who is chairwoman of the caucus committee for immigration and labour, told the Diversity Forum in Wellington on Sunday she would be asking Dr Coleman to "be more flexible" in his approach to New Zealand migrant workers.
"We will be coming out of the recession in the not-too-distant future, and we want to keep our migrant workforce here, and not send them home," said Dr Blue.
Immigration New Zealand says there are about 188,000 migrant workers on New Zealand work permits, with 38,349 under the labour-tested category.
Many are not able to renew their permits as employers who want to continue employing a migrant worker must show that no New Zealanders are available, and the recession has meant greater availability of locals.
Suggestions put to the minister by the trust included a call for amnesty for redundant migrant workers, extending New Zealand visas of temporary workers and for employers to have more say on whom they can employ.
Responding, Dr Coleman said: "Immigration temporary work policy has always sought to ensure that suitable New Zealand citizens and permanent residents get first employment opportunities ... the Government has no intention of weakening this important policy principle."
The minister said people who came to New Zealand on temporary work permits had always done so on the understanding there was no "right to renewal" or any guarantee of obtaining permanent residence.
But Dr Blue said migrants, including those who came on temporary New Zealand work permits, were important contributors to New Zealand's economic development.
"The migrant population provided a net fiscal contribution to New Zealand of $3.3 billion in the year to June 30, 2006."
The Department of Labour says permanent and temporary New Zealand migrants account for 60 per cent of the growth of New Zealand's workforce and businesses. Migrants contribute 25 per cent of Government revenue and account for 18 per cent of Government expenditure.
The New Zealand Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in New Zealand visa and immigration services.