Migrant workers evade eviction from Auckland property under investigation
Migrant workers staying at one of the five Auckland properties subject to an Immigration New Zealand investigation on Sunday rebuffed an effort to evict them from the address.
Around 35 migrant workers had been staying at the house in the South Auckland suburb of Papakura in recent months, sleeping on mattresses littering the floor of the property as well as in two exterior units that had been constructed on the compound.
The property is in the same suburb as the accommodation housing dozens of migrant labourers that RNZ visited last week.
On Sunday, a man who claimed ownership of the exterior units visited the property and informed the workers that he had come to remove the units from the address and the workers should vacate the premises.
"One man came in a big van with some people and shouted at us," said Prasad Babu, a welder from Andhra Pradesh in India. "He shouted at us because we told our stories on the media."
Prasad Babu is a fabricator from Andhra Pradesh, India. Photo: RNZ / Blessen Tom
Babu, 45, said the man did not give those staying at the property advance notice of the visit.
"He was angry and asked us to go back to where we come from if we don't have jobs here," he says.
Police attended the scene but did not intervene in the dispute. Police have been contacted for comment on the matter.
Babu has been working in the United States for 12 years.
"I couldn't get a Green Card, so I had to return to India," he said. "Then I heard about New Zealand and got here in June."
Since arriving about two months ago, Babu has yet to receive any work from the employer that sponsored his visa.
The man who wanted to remove the exterior units from the property claimed to be associated with the company that has issued visas to the workers, Babu said.
Babu said the man expressed an intention to relocate some of the workers at the property to Hamilton, but the occupants refused to leave.
"He said he will return with some equipment to remove the exterior units in two days," Babu said.
About 10 workers stay in exterior units on the property. Photo: RNZ / Blessen Tom
Vinu Choodal, 36, has been staying at the house since early August.
"I was staying in an exterior unit but had to move into the house because it was too cold," Choodal said.
The Kerala native says the workers asked the man not to remove the exterior units, but he insisted.
"The workers were genuinely frightened," he said.
Choodal, a welder by trade, has worked in India for the past few years. He paid $20,000 to an agent in India for a visa and related job in New Zealand.
Thirty-six-year-old Vinu Choodal is a welder from Kerala, India. Photo: RNZ / Blessen Tom
Mandeep Singh Bela, president of Union Network of Migrants NZ, arrived on the scene after being called by the workers.
Bela said the man had been at the premises for more than an hour and had threatened some of the workers.
"He expressed displeasure at the workers' interaction with the media," Bela said.
Anu Kaloti, spokesperson for the New Zealand Migrant Workers' Association, claimed the man is suspected to be an employer of some of the workers.
"These individuals have audaciously brought these workers here under false pretenses, exploiting them without providing employment and now seeking to render them homeless is both heartless and unacceptable," Kaloti said.
Last week, the government initiated an investigation into the plight of numerous migrant workers stranded in Auckland.
Despite paying substantial sums - ranging from $15,000 to $40,000 - to various agents for visas and job placements, many of these workers have yet to secure paid employment.
Investigators have interviewed 115 Indian and Bangladeshi nationals who entered New Zealand on accredited employment work visas.
Last Thursday, Immigration Minister Andrew Little announced that the Public Service Commission would review the processes of the accredited employer work visa scheme following allegations of abuse.