Immigration NZ accused of exploiting victimised migrants

Imogen Wells
Source: 1News

Victims of migrant exploitation claim Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has further exploited them, after issuing them with a Limited Purpose Visa (LPV).

Manpreet Brar had been helping INZ in a court case against her former exploitative employer, working as a witness.

She said her ex-boss asked for $30,000 as an “employment premium” as part of her employer-assisted visa, but said she soon realised there was no actual job.

“He promised he’d give me a job and support my residency application, but when I went to the office I found there was no real work as an assistant office manager.”

She said her former boss then fled the country and she was left in the lurch, with a visa attached to an employer and job that didn’t exist.

She approached INZ, which issued her an LPV while it investigated her claims.

LPVs are issued to people visiting or in Aotearoa for a specific reason, such as family emergencies, seeking medical treatment, or working for a Recognised Seasonal Employer.

Once that express purpose is complete or fulfilled, the visa holder must leave New Zealand and cannot apply for any other visas until they’ve done so.

There are currently 49 migrants assisting INZ in exploitation cases who have been issued with an LPV.

Brar's case against her employer was dropped one month ago, and she was given 30 days to leave the country as per her LPV conditions.

Meanwhile, her husband and son can remain here.

“I thought New Zealand was much better... free of corruption... but I don’t think that anymore. If not corruption, it’s got a lot of inefficiency,” she said.

“I think I made a mistake of [sic] complaining. We have made ourselves more victim [sic] than before.”

Another migrant, who 1News cannot name because their exploitation case is currently before the courts, was also issued with an LPV when he agreed to be a witness for INZ against his former employer.

“I lost my mind, that type of mental stress,” he said in regards to facing deportation once the court proceedings are complete.

“First I was exploited by the employer, but I feel kind of the same about INZ.”

The man does not understand why victims of migrant exploitation, who are helping the government crack down on dodgy employers, are being issued with visas that force them out of the country.

Because LPV holders cannot apply for any other Kiwi visas unless they leave New Zealand, the man and Brar are ineligible for two new visas launched this year by the Government; one specifically created for victims of migrant exploitation, and another which is a pathway to residency.

Earlier this year, the Government rolled out a Migrant Exploitation and Protection Visa which gives victims of exploitation a pathway to leave exploitative work situations and allows them to stay in New Zealand lawfully.

More recently, the Government’s 2021 Resident Visa is now available for migrants who have lived in New Zealand for the last three years or who work in skilled or scarce supply jobs.

An estimated 165,000 migrants currently in New Zealand are eligible for the simplified residency pathway, but not the nearly 50 migrants working with INZ on Limited Purpose Visas.

“How strange is that? I’m being exploited, and I can’t even apply for that,” the unnamed man said.

One immigration lawyer is concerned the LPV system being used by INZ in migrant exploitation cases could deter victims from coming forward.

“Being given a Limited Purpose Visa means they have no other options to stay here or to change their type of visa whereas other people - who don’t report the exploitation and don’t work as witnesses - have all sorts of rights,” Alistair McClymont said.

“So in fact, the exploitative employment relationship they were in is being continued by the government restricting them to this particular visa.”

He has worked with both migrants 1News spoke to and is calling on the Government to better incentivise victims to come forward.

“They’re virtually being punished for being witnesses,” he said of the current system.

Green Party Immigration spokesperson Ricardo Menéndez March wants to see victims of migrant exploitation forced onto LPVs be eligible for the Government’s pathway to residency scheme.

“The Government urgently needs to review their settings for the one-off residency visa so that they include people on the limited visa,” he said.

“If the Government is serious on cracking down on exploitation... excluding people who are supporting the Government in these issues is not the right way.”

In a statement, Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi told 1News the Government is not looking at changing limited visa rules to aid people in similar situations.

Instead, he pointed to the new migrant exploitation visa; one that the nearly 50 exploited migrants on LPVs still cannot apply for.

Brar has put her case to stay in New Zealand directly to the minister in the hopes she does not have to leave Aotearoa.