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20 Okt 2023

NZ: 100 migrants crammed into Auckland house reportedly "scammed" by co. through accredited employer work visa scheme


Reports have emerged of up to 100 migrant workers found living in a three bedroom Auckland house after arriving in the country on accredited employment work visas. The workers showed news reporters they were living in inhumane conditions and did not have food to eat, when they called police.

The government has since said it has launched an investigation, interviewing 115 Indian and Bangladeshi nationals. Immigration New Zealand is also contacting other visa holders linked to this case to warn them not to travel without further notice.

The case is the latest to highlight alleged abuse of the work visa scheme in New Zealand. The scheme has been criticised by Union Network of Migrants NZ president Mandeep Singh Bela who said employers were not accountable under the system, and immigration lawyer Ankur Sabarwhal who recently argued that the system enables migrant exploitation.

The Public Service Commission has said it will review the Accredited Employer Work Visa scheme after a whistleblower came forward with allegations that checks on employers were not being made, prompted by the case.

An article released on 30th August 2023 outlined how the investigation has led to migrants being stopped at the border and turned around, and others told not to travel. Advocates have noted this is problematic as those workers likely had already paid recruitment fees that they cannot recover. The article also notes that the number of labour hire companies is increasing, yet accreditation checks are becoming 'looser than ever'. The fact many migrant workers' visas are tied to their employer renders them vulnerable to abuse - particularly if the employer is a labour hire company, as the job may still be speculative.

An article by Radio New Zealand released in September 2023 stated that a job matching event organised by the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) took place to help the Bangladeshi and Indian migrant workers find replacement jobs. However, the Government did not say whether it was extending the job matching event to other migrants who had experienced fraud through the Accredited Employer Work Visa Scheme.

By October, some migrant workers told Radio New Zealand they had not been able to secure work despite the initiatives set up and were facing the prospect of losing access to accommodation, with finding alternative accommodation difficult without a job, or returning home. Radio New Zealand also reported that an immigration advisory had been arrested in connection to the case.