Time was when family reunification was at the heart of this country’s immigration policy. Migrants were welcomed as families and whoever migrated singly, there were policies that encouraged them to reunite with their families by bringing them to New Zealand to join them. Even parents could migrate under policies like ‘centre of gravity’.

Even parents could migrate under policies like ‘centre of gravity’.

That was institutional kindness at its best – even if governments of those days never called it that. They simply practiced it, recognising it as just the right thing to do – no one can thrive without the support of their families; more so when they migrate to a new country. There’s no gainsaying the role families play in individuals’ wellbeing.

But ‘kindness’ is just another empty buzzword today – a hot favourite of the present government. We’re told to be kind every day in every missive from ministers and officials. But there is little, if any at all, in their actions –and every time one hears the word from them it only rings emptier.

More than 75 per cent of Indian New Zealanders separated from their families since the first border closures following the pandemic last March, have not seen their loved ones for 18 months, an Indian Weekender investigation revealed this week.

And this unfortunate situation is obviously not just restricted to Indian New Zealanders. It is nothing less than heart rending to read stories of the unending frustration of split families from a range of countries across the world on a growing list of social media groups.

With a muddled MIQ system that has had multiple problems from the word go, the government squandered away New Zealand’s almost yearlong Covid-free status in not addressing the issue to improve the booking system, resorting instead to band aid measures including the one announced on Wednesday this week.

This is to speak nothing of the repeated leaks that have plagued the far-from-optimal MIQ system, one of which has caused the present countrywide lockdown that is costing the country at least $1 billion a week. The Finance Minister’s Covid-19 fund is running almost dry and there is a good chance that he may have to borrow more shortly.

Add to this the situation of thousands of skilled migrants deemed essential to the New Zealand economy stuck in limbo here because of their residency status. Permanent Residency applications processing is in a hiatus and there are no Expression of Interest selections since it was put on hold in April 2020. It is as if the entire department that deals with immigration is in suspended animation. There have been reports of several vacancies at the department.

For weeks, if not months, the Immigration Minister has been promising new policy announcements “very shortly” – none have eventuated so far and there is clearly mounting pressure on the government to address these multiple issues in a convincing manner at the earliest at the risk of losing its credibility completely on immigration.

This government has managed to preside over some dubious records – all because of its continued dithering on fixing its severely broken immigration system. Currently, New Zealand has the longest queue of residency applications ever. It has the worst labour shortage in recent decades.

It is no longer tenable for the government to blame it all on the pandemic – which has affected every country on the planet. But other countries have learned fast and are already wooing the best brains and hands to their countries with the most generous residency policies.

Experienced immigration agents have told Indian Weekender that New Zealand is losing skilled migrants, who are already here in limbo because of their unconscionably delayed residency status, are being lured in droves by Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia, where wages are much higher in the first place. In fact, many of them are actually helping process more applications to those countries than into New Zealand.

That is a indeed a sad commentary on New Zealand’s plummeting desirability as a destination for skilled migrants.