Redundant migrants 'forced out'

Redundant migrants are being forced out of New Zealand in droves or ending up destitute on the streets, migrant advocates say.

Mike Bell, director of Christchurch's Skilled Migrant Information and Resource Centre, said the Government's policy of pushing migrants out of the country by denying them work visas was affecting New Zealand's international reputation and would leave employers vulnerable when the recession lifted.

Migrants who were made redundant while on a short-term visa were being told they had as little as 21 days to find another job, leaving them just weeks to decide whether to stay or leave the country they had come to call home, he said.

Even those with job offers who applied for visas were getting declined or facing a wait of up to 72 days to process their application.

In the past such applications could be granted in just one hour if the job was on the skills shortage list.

Bell said people without residency or citizenship had no right to any benefits and could quickly find themselves in a desperate situation.

One German family had ended up separated and living on charity. The father and son lived in the City Mission. The rest of the family was in a refuge. The man had lost his job as a master painter and had not been able to find work since.

An Eastern European family would have been on the streets if the Bells had not taken them into their own home five weeks ago. The father's job was on the skills shortage list and he had been offered more work, but was waiting for his application to be processed.

"These people were brought in to fill our skills shortages and were paying tax," Bell said.

"We are just seeing the tip of the iceberg.

"A lot of people don't ask for help. They just get on a plane and leave, but when they get home they will tell people not to come.

"It's not only going to hurt people and damage the economy and New Zealand employers, our international reputation's going to be mud," he said.

Bell will hold a meeting on the predicament at his Lincoln Rd migrant resource centre next Wednesday.

He has requested an urgent meeting with Immigration Minister Jonathan Coleman, but has not heard back.

An Immigration New Zealand spokeswoman said migrants on work permits who lost their jobs needed to approach Immigration New Zealand about their change in circumstances.

There was no specified period for migrants to find a new job after being made redundant.

Processing times for getting a new visa varied, but more than 90 per cent were decided within 60 days.

Coleman said this year that the number of migrants entering, or remaining in, New Zealand on short-term visas would drop during the recession.

- The Press