Work visa refused despite boss' plea

BY KERRY WILLIAMSON
Last updated 05:00 14/09/2009
Sunita Khan and her family must leave New Zealand by September 21 and return to Fiji. With her are her husband Hamin, son Shahil and daughter Pretisha.
KENT BLECHYNDEN/Dominion Post
NO LONGER ELIGIBLE: Sunita Khan and her family must leave New Zealand by September 21 and return to Fiji. With her are her husband Hamin, son Shahil and daughter Pretisha.

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A Fijian caregiver has been refused a work permit and must leave New Zealand in one week despite a plea from her employer to allow her to stay because she is impossible to replace.

Sunita Khan, her husband Hamin and children Shahil, 17, and Pretisha, 15, must be out of New Zealand by September 21, but have vowed to fight Immigration New Zealand.

Her permit allowed both parents to work in New Zealand and to enrol their children at Wellington's Onslow College, which is also supporting their bid to stay in the country.

But late last month she had her application to extend the permit turned down because Immigration says there are plenty of Kiwis who could do her job.

However, a Labour Department report earlier this year said New Zealand faces a drastic shortage of caregivers and migrants will be needed to fill an ever-growing void.

"I give my heart to my job," Mrs Khan said. "It's not fair. I'm very sad."

For the past year she has been allowed to work at a Johnsonville home, caring for the elderly. Both she and her husband who works in customer service at Toops wholesalers worked six days a week until her permit expired.

"Immigration needed me when there was no one to fill the position and now they are saying that they have people to replace us; it's not fair at all," she said.

Immigration New Zealand boss Andrew Annakin refused to comment on the Khans' case, but said caregiver was not considered an occupation facing a long-term or immediate shortage.

"Employers may recruit non-New Zealanders if no New Zealander with suitable skills, or able to be trained, is available for the job," he said.

"The position of caregiver is not eligible for inclusion on the skills list, as the occupation is readily trainable."

A Labour Department report issued earlier this year forecast a significant shortage of caregivers and a massive increase in the number of older people who will need care as baby boomers age.

The report recommends the Government consider more migrant workers to ease the gap.

Mrs Khan's employer has been unable to find anyone with her skills and experience and says there is a drastic shortage of caregivers. It has advertised for staff but been unable to find anyone suitable.

"Experienced caregivers are a scarce and valuable resource," the employer said in her letter to Immigration.

The home's care manager said Mrs Khan "has proven to be a very competent and caring person who delivers care to the elderly with expertise and commitment.

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"Sunita's empathy and enthusiasm ... exceeds that of those we currently see in the market."

- The Dominion Post

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