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Indian Nurses Stranded On AEWV Complaint Against Canterbury Firm

Representational Image | Photo: RNZ

Two complaints have been filed with Immigration New Zealand against a recruitment company based in Canterbury that has been bringing healthcare workers from India into the country on accredited employer work visas. 

The complainants have each lodged the same complaint with the Indian High Commission in Wellington. 

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RNZ has obtained a copy of the complaints. 

The complaints are the first to be formally filed by migrant workers from India who are among a group of healthcare workers that have reportedly been jobless upon arriving in the country on accredited employer work visas sponsored by Deocare (NZ) Personnel. 

While some of these nurses have since found work in other organisations, complainant Sruthi Vincent hasn't been so lucky. 

"Finally, I had to do it [file the complaint]," she says. 

Vincent arrived in New Zealand in December on an accredited employer work visa sponsored by the Canterbury-based company.  

Prior to leaving India more than five months ago, she had worked as a nurse for five years. 

Vincent's relocation to New Zealand was facilitated by an India-based recruitment agency called London Academy, which operates near her family-owned store in Kerala.  

Interested in migrating to New Zealand following a conversation with one of the agency's employees, Vincent participated in an interview with a Deocare representative and received an offer of employment from Deocare (NZ) Personnel a short time later, which she accepted on 3 October 2023.

Vincent's employment contract with Deocare was conditional on her commencing employment within four weeks of the contract being signed or after notification of arrival in New Zealand.

It stated that any extension of that timeframe had to be mutually agreed or the contract was "null and void". Vincent says she was given a verbal assurance by London Academy that led her to believe Deocare was flexible with her travel dates, and she would start work shortly after her arrival in New Zealand.  

She paid $25,000 to London Academy, both through bank transfers and in cash. 

Vincent landed in Hastings on 12 December with seven other Indian nurses, with the group being instructed to contact Deocare.  

She promptly followed this instruction, according to an email seen by RNZ. 

"After about two weeks, one of my friends received an email from Deocare stating that they couldn't assist us and hadn't taken any money from us," Vincent recalls.  

"They advised us to find jobs independently and seek assistance from the agency in India." 

She obtained a letter from Deocare on 17 January, saying it had no objection to her seeking "other opportunities".

Vincent says it is challenging for healthcare workers on accredited employer work visas to change employers. 

"I need to get a job with an accredited employer capable of providing a median wage and who can do a job check and has a job token," she says. "It's really tough to find an employer who can do all of that." 

With Deocare unable to assist the jobless nurses, Vincent and her companions contacted their agencies in India. 

The London Academy employee that had spoken to Vincent before she left India started to change his story. 

"Initially, he assured us of a job but, later, he changed his tune, promising to refund our money," she says. 

Vincent and her family have reportedly filed a case against London Academy, lodging a complaint with their local police station in Kerala. 

Vincent claims many affected healthcare workers have migrated to New Zealand using London Academy services. 

She claims they haven't filed a formal complaint yet because they still believe they can find employment on their own. 

A second complaint has been filed with Immigration New Zealand against Deocare by another nurse whom RNZ has decided not to name out of privacy concerns.

Although the nurse travelled to New Zealand in a smaller group, she was also reportedly told by London Academy to contact Deocare upon arrival.

"I emailed them after arriving in Hamilton on 30 December 2023, but [initially] did not receive any response," she says.

Upon finally contacting Deocare, the nurse was told that no positions were available.

The nurse then received a letter from Deocare on 17 January, stating that the recruitment agency had no objection to her seeking "other opportunities".

RNZ has approached Deocare for comment. 

Nurses from India continue to migrate to New Zealand in significant numbers, with the number of newly registered Indian nurses rising from 159 in December 2022 to 458 in the quarter of 2023, according to latest figures provided by the Nursing Council. 

Nearly 50 percent of registered nurses who have relocated to New Zealand since the country's borders opened in 2022 have arrived from India. 

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