Hundreds of protesters marched through central Auckland in support of migrant rights and demanding changes to “broken” immigration policy.
Among their demands is that border restrictions be lifted to allow in workers who had been trapped overseas as well as the families of those who were stuck here when the pandemic hit.
President of the Migrant Workers Association Anu Kaloti told the 400-strong crowd on Saturday that migrants are suffering at the hands of the “broken immigration system”.
The group is asking for the government to create “genuine” pathways to residency for people who have been in New Zealand for a long time.
“These departments [Immigration NZ] need to be more humane and less bureaucratic,” Kaloti said.
People who are in New Zealand on temporary visas are scared, she added.
“It’s about looking after people who are already here.”
The group is also calling for the process of attaching visas to employers to stop, as it made it easy for employers to exploit migrant workers.
Organisers of the rally, The Federation of Aotearoa Migrants, have so far held candlelight vigils across the country and last May protested on the steps of Parliament.
People have come from far and wide for the march, including Christchurch, Wellington, Tauranga and Rotorua.
“Bring them back”, “let us stay” and “migrant workers are under attack,” they chanted as they walked up Queen St.
Greens MP Ricardo Menéndez March told the crowd it was “unacceptable” migrants were waiting years for residency, especially when the government relied on migrant workers.
The government needed to allow New Zealand’s offshore migrants the dignity of letting them return home, he said.
They were not asking the government to open the borders and risk New Zealand’s public health response to Covid-19, he added.
Unite Union advocate Mike Treen, who has joined the movement in solidarity, said resolving the “crisis for migrants” who have made New Zealand their home was an “urgent necessity” that had not been dealt with by the government.
He said that in a recent media interview Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said migrant workers were at home in New Zealand, but that now “meaningful action” was required to give those words meaning.
“The migrant community’s proposals will also radically reduce migrant worker exploitation that has been a scourge in our community that has been tolerated for far too long, and that will lift the situation for all workers,” Treen said.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), and the office of immigration minister Kris Faafoi have been approached for comment.