Advocates criticise immigration 'reset' as 'migrant scapegoating', call for kindness

Source: 1News

The Government's "once-in-a-generation" reset of the country's immigration system is being criticised as "migrant scapegoating". 

Announced last week, the Government said the reset will see New Zealand move away from relying on low-skilled workers to attracting those with higher skills. 

Temporary workers, partners' working rights and the skilled migrant category are a key focus, with the category set to be reviewed. 

Employer requirements will be strengthened, along with labour market tests, before a migrant can be hired so temporary workers are only recruited for genuine job shortages.

However, the reset has been criticised for its lack of detail. 

Anu Kaloti, president of the Migrant Workers Association, told Breakfast today it was hardly a reset or an announcement. 

She said the "reset" was all about dividing workers into those who were low-skilled and those who were highly skilled.

"The sad thing was, there was nothing in this alleged announcement about people who are already here."

She explained the "reset" had led to further uncertainty and limbo for these migrants. 

Kaloti also described the "reset" as "migrant scapegoating" and said the Government had taken to blaming migrants: "It is because of you wages have been lowered, it's because of you we have problems with infrastructure, housing and transport ...."

In the wake of the announcement, she said already frustrated migrants had had enough, and were constantly calling for strikes and hunger strikes.

As a result, she said, a march for migrants will be held in Auckland on June 5.

"That's how angry and upset migrants are who are generally quite obliging and quite fearful of doing anything radical."

Kaloti told Breakfast migrants wanted kindness.

"Migrants would just like a tiny sliver of the compassion and the kindness that our Prime Minister is so well-known for internationally."

Immigration lawyer Richard Small agreed, saying migrants were being treated as a resource, instead of people who contribute, in the country's long-standing "boom bust cycle" of immigration. 

The Pacific Legal lawyer called for detail from the "reset" and "just some common garden kindness" to ease a "cloud of uncertainty", particularly for workers who were already in New Zealand.

"Be kind. Remember these are people you're dealing with."

"Reset" about future settings

Appearing later in Breakfast, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the "reset" was "very much talking about settings in the future".

She said there would be no turning off of the tap, but the "reset" is a push to get the balance right. 

Ardern said she did not want the country to get into a place over its immigration settings of "them and us". 

"This is why you’ll hear me try and make sure we are having this discussion in a way that doesn’t do that for those who are calling New Zealand home. This is their home, it is our home.

"We cannot be seen to create an environment where people are discriminated against during this discussion. They have come to New Zealand to support New Zealand’s economy. So this is why we’re talking about the settings in the future about what’s best for everyone."