Foreign workers fear expulsion


Work-permit applications are being declined at double the rate of a year ago, leaving immigrants worried about their future. More than 760 work-permit applications were rejected in April this year, compared with 224 in April 2006 and 357 last year.

While 4500 applications were accepted in April last year, just 3200 were issued in April this year lowering the approval rating from 93 per cent to 81 per cent.

Canterbury dairy farmer and consultant for recruitment company Greener Horizons, Shirlene Cochrane, said her company had 22 Filipinos working in Canterbury whose visas were due for renewal over the next 10 months. She had documentation from the Immigration Department indicating it would be “pretty much impossible to get them renewed”. However, she said unemployed Kiwis could not fill the jobs.

Reinier Undan, 27, has been working on a Leeston dairy farm for eight months. His visa is due for renewal in October. He has a two-year contract, but is worried about whether he will be allowed to stay. Undan is saving money for his wedding next year, as well as paying for his younger brother to attend school.

He had hoped to bring his wife to New Zealand to live. “I feel a little bit nervous because I heard some news from other Filipinos that when they went to get renewed, they were turned down,” he said.

“It might be very hard to find work at home.” Undan’s employer, Alistair McDrury, said what set Filipino workers apart from many Kiwis was their work ethic.

“Immigration is wanting to clamp up on letting them into the country, but just because people are unemployed doesn’t mean they are suitable to work on dairy farms,” he said.

“The unemployment rate is climbing, but the dairy industry is still struggling to find staff.” Migrant Action Trust co-ordinator Agnes Granada said some migrants had been in New Zealand for up to nine years and were now faced with possibly having to go home.

Immigrants who were made redundant could only look for work in the occupation their permit covered and had little time to find a new job. Granada said the trust was asking Immigration Minister Jonathan Coleman to allow immigrants to seek work in any area.

“Many migrants are unable to find a job in the current climate. Where are these people going to go?” she said. “We want to highlight to the minister that coming to New Zealand involves huge investment.” The National Distribution Union and Filipino workers’ group, Migrante Aotearoa, are petitioning the Government to extend redundant migrants’ work permits for three months. 

“Many migrants and their families have lost their residency applications and are in deep trouble,” Migrante Aotearoa director Dennis Maga said. “We encouraged migrants and their families to come to New Zealand when we needed them to fill our labour shortage; we shouldn’t throw them out now that they are in need.”

Coleman said temporary work visas would not be renewed as more New Zealanders became available to work. “There is never any guarantee that they will be renewed, and migrants know this when they come to New Zealand under those visas,” the minister said.