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Calls to pause ‘exploitative’ Accredited Employer Work Visa scheme

8 August, 2023

Interview by Rawan Saidi, adapted by Mahdhi Osman-Penrice. 

Migrant Workers’ Association President, Anu Kaloti, says Aotearoa's immigration policies are “unkind to migrants”.

On Saturday, 22 July, protestors took to the streets of Papatoetoe to call out exploitation of migrant workers in Aotearoa. 

The protestors were made up of various organisations, including the Migrant Worker’s Association, Unite Union, and the Aotearoa Tongan Response Group.

The collective is largely focused on the government's Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) scheme, which was introduced in July last year. 

Since the scheme began, over 70,000 people from India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and South America have arrived in Aotearoa to help fill labour shortages. 

The AEWV was implemented in an attempt to decrease exploitation. But last week, Newshub reported that complaints of migrant exploitation have increased sixfold under Labour, with many blaming the scheme. 

Migrant Workers’ Association President, Anu Kaloti, told 95bFM’s The Wire, that the immigration policies the government has introduced are “unkind to migrants”.

Kaloti said the AEWV gives employers a dangerous power-dynamic over their employees. 

“This new visa category is based on a high-trust model, where the employer seems to be more in charge than anyone else.” 

According to Kalot, Immigration New Zealand’s (INZ) verification process of giving accreditation to employers is problematic.

“Employers make these declarations in an online application, and they are not required to provide a lot of documentation to support the declarations they make”.

Kaloti is concerned that the current system can leave vulnerable migrants in a state of limbo. 

“They’ve been brought in by employers, and once they arrive here the job doesn’t exist, so it’s a fake job that they have paid tens of thousands of dollars for.”

She believes that INZ doesn’t do enough to validate employers in the scheme.

“Immigration New Zealand does check and verify employers but not all of them. Only 15% of employers are being checked, and they have only started doing those checks as of April this year, almost a year later [since the scheme began].”

“In the meantime, migrant workers who were going to be exploited have been exploited and they have been hurt.”

Kaloti hopes the government will pause the scheme and ultimately grant amnesty to migrant workers who have overstayed their visa, to better protect them from exploitative conditions. 

Public Interest Journalism Funded through NZ On Air