A group of forty workers and families who have been in the country on and off since last eight years are protesting outside parliament feeling “betrayed” by the Immigration New Zealand (INZ), demanding an immediate intervention by the government.

The group comprising of several kids gathered in front of the parliament on Tuesday, June 20, raising slogans and demanding Ministerial intervention to be allowed to live permanently in the country.

The group largely comprises of workers involved in the country’s infamous first ever human trafficking trial which convicted two residents in 2015 with lesser charges of giving false statements to Immigration New Zealand officials.

Speaking to Indian Weekender, Jasjeet Singh, one of the protestors bemoaned that “the group felt betrayed by the Immigration New Zealand after offering them full support in investigations related to immigration fraud.”

The saga began in 2009 when a group of 23 workers arrived from the Indian state of Punjab on a Limited Purpose Visa (Seasonal Work Visa) to work in a vineyard in Blenheim, only to be told in the first week by their employer that their services were not required anymore.

What started from there was a long saga of deceit, treachery and betrayal resulting in frustration and miseries for most of the workers in the country.

Apparently, these workers had spent huge sums of money in the range of $50,000 with intermediaries who have sold him the promise of gaining residency in this country.

Based on these false promises, these workers were allegedly lured into the trap of filing “refugee visa” with INZ sighting falsified reasons of the threat of life back home in India.

The fraud investigation team of INZ had investigated the case, and offenders were prosecuted in the Nelson High Court which had eventually convicted Kulwant Singh and Jaswinder Singh Sangha on the lesser charges of giving false statements to Immigration New Zealand officials.

While this information has been in public domain, what has largely escaped public attention is the plight of those 23 workers who initially arrived on the seasonal work visa.

The initial group of 23 workers have now swelled into 40 something workers and families with many workers immediately returning to India, while family members of many others were flown in with the support of INZ to assist in court proceedings and safeguarding them from alleged perpetrators of human trafficking. 

Apparently, many of these workers have willingly assisted the fraud investigating team of INZ, with in some cases their families being legitimately flown in from India on a promise of permanent immigration to NZ in return of giving evidence in courts.

 “During the period of trial we worked closely with fraud investigating team on INZ, who facilitated our family’s visa,” Mr Singh said.

“Many family members in our group have repeatedly faced life threats by the same intermediaries who were responsible for our situation.

“Immigration officials from NZ have travelled India at least on three separate occasions meeting our family members at Amritsar, Jalandhar and New Delhi,” Mr Singh claimed.

“Our family members have arrived in New Zealand on a valid work visa with the help of fraud investigating team of INZ solely on the assurance of permanent immigration and safeguarding from the perpetrators of human trafficking,” Mr Singh further claimed while speaking on behalf of group members.

Based on their understanding and assurances from INZ officials, members of this group have filed the application for permanent residency in Hamilton branch of INZ, which was eventually declined.

These workers and their respective families are in a precarious situation with their valid work visa having been expired on February 23.

On May 25, their application for permanent residency was further declined to add to their predicament.

These migrant workers and their families have risked a fortune and security of lives of their family members to assist INZ in successfully prosecuting the perpetrator of human trafficking.

There is a need to bring more compassion, empathy and sensitivity in overall response of INZ towards the plight of these workers.

The apparent absence of coordination and influence of fraud investigating team of INZ over the team responsible for finally approving residency in this country as many of the workers are alleging is neither acceptable nor good for the reputation of New Zealand.

Indian Weekender is waiting for a response from INZ.