The government of New Zealand has initiated a thorough inquiry into allegations of exploiting 115 Indian and Bangladeshi citizens who came to the country with the expectation of employment that never materialised.
These individuals were housed in accommodations that were inadequate for accommodating such a large number of people. New Zealand Immigration conveyed in an official statement that the living conditions in these accommodations were unsanitary, unhygienic, and unsuitable.
Last week, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) officially commenced an extensive and meticulous investigation into the matter.
According to the immigration authority, “Our investigators have spoken with 115 Indian and Bangladeshi nationals who arrived in New Zealand on Accredited Employment Work Visas (AEWV) with the promise of employment when they arrived. Individuals have indicated they paid a substantial amount for the visa and a job, yet most are still waiting for any paid work.”
In spite of handing over substantial amounts of money, ranging from USD 15,000 (approximately INR 12,46,778) to USD 40,000 (approximately INR 33,24,742), to various agents for their visas and associated job opportunities, the majority of these labourers were left without any form of paid work, as reported by rnz.co.nz.
The Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) falls under the category of temporary work visas. A number of individuals have been residing in New Zealand for an extended period, while others have more recently arrived.
The Indian High Commission has been actively involved in providing assistance to their fellow citizens, as stated by the immigration authority.
In a tweet shared last Friday, the Indian High Commission expressed, “As soon as we were informed regarding Indian workers in distress in Auckland, we reached out to support them. Food & Consular services are provided to the workers. We are in touch with all concerned. We are committed to the welfare of the Indian community in NZ.”
As reported by The New Zealand Herald newspaper, the Accredited Employer Work Visa program is currently undergoing 164 ongoing investigations due to grievances concerning worker exploitation and breaches.
Implemented in July of the previous year, the scheme has sanctioned approximately 81,000 visas, involving around 27,900 endorsed employers. Its primary objective was to prevent exploitation by confirming the viability of employers and ensuring equitable treatment of employees, with both pre and post-accreditation assessments.
Reacting to serious concerns raised by a whistleblower last Tuesday, Immigration Minister Andrew Little has initiated an urgent, independent review of the scheme’s operational procedures. The whistleblower had highlighted that potential accredited employers were not undergoing the requisite checks, according to the report.