Measures to tackle exploitation of migrant workers, enabling the victims to go through the complaint process without fear and releasing international students from the clutches of unscrupulous agents are some of the issues being considered by the Government.
These were the outcomes of a meeting held between Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse and his officials with the office-bearers of the New Zealand Indian Central Association (NZICA) in Wellington on May 21, 2014.
The Association also held separate meetings on the same day with Ethnic Affairs Minister Judith Collins, Associate Social Development Minister Chester Burrows and Indian High Commissioner Ravi Thapar.
National List MP Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi was present at all the meetings.
The NZICA team comprised Harshad Patel (President), Bhikhu Bhana (Vice-President), Prakash Biradar (General Secretary), Rupinder Virk (Assistant Secretary), Manjit Singh (Treasurer), Prithipal Singh (Immigration Subcommittee Chairman) and former President Ratilal Champaneri. Members of affiliated organisations joined them at other meetings.
According to a report sent to us by the Association, Mr Woodhouse said that the problems concerning exploitation of migrant workers cannot be over-simplified and that a long-term solution should be found to ensure that their rights are protected.
“We are working with the Department of Labour and the Justice Ministry. Migrant workers and international students who are being exploited should come forward with their complaints so that the concerned officials can take proper action,” he said.
Stating that he was aware of the problems relating to students from India applying for student permits and visas, Mr Woodhouse said that Immigration New Zealand (INZ) is working on a ‘trusted partnership agreement’ with tertiary education providers including Universities to streamline systems and procedures.
Mr Woodhouse reportedly agreed to an NZICA suggestion to establish a contact point within INZ for Indian nationals and open forum with the community on immigration.
“The need to provide ‘Visa Free’ status to Indians living in Australia to visit New Zealand to witness Cricket World Cup matches next year was also discussed. The Minister and INZ will consider the issue later in the year.”
Private Secretary Lauren Deslandes and Immigration Policy Manager Christine Hyndman attended the meeting.
Indians on Boards
During her meeting with NZICA officials, Ms Collins reiterated her desire to have more persons of Indian origin, especially women, appointed to Government Boards and Committees but cautioned on a number of factors.
“While a large number of applications are received for appointment to various boards, people should have relevant experience and attitude to qualify for membership. Besides, these are not ‘well-paid jobs.’ Ethnic Affairs will examine how best we can achieve ethnic diversity in these boards,” she said. Our earlier reports on this subject appeared in Indian Newslink April 15, 2013 and January 15, 2014.
Ethnic Affairs Office Director Berlinda Chin attended the meeting.
According to NZICA, Ms Collins expressed her Government’s hope for a Free Trade Agreement with India.
“The Office of Ethnic Affairs is looking for meaningful and useful partnerships. We should not be viewed as a welfare organisation. The Indian community is hard working and diverse with many religions and traditions. There is a need for greater integration so that the benefits of partnerships are available to all New Zealanders,” she said.
Wellington Indian Association officials Mukesh Jeram (President), Taruna Bhana (Secretary) Manisha Morar (Member) and Pukekohe Indian Association Member Jogindar Kaur were also present at the meeting.
Ethnic Affairs Minister Judith Collins with NZICA officials
Violence against Men
Discussions with Mr Burrows took an interesting turn when Prithipal Singh said that there were also battered husbands in the community.
“We have a house to care for abused men in Auckland. NZICA is keen to end domestic violence involving both men and women. There is an urgent need to tackle a number of social ills including alcohol and drug addiction, some youngsters who create problems and family issues,” he said.
Mr Burrows agreed that a more proactive response and system should be in place to handle such social and domestic problems.
“We must also develop ‘It is not OK to Abuse’ culture and take steps to make homes free of violence. We must have a mediation process (between spouses and partners) rather than taking the legal option. Such a system works well in Northern Ireland,” he said.
Mr Jeram, Mr Bhana, Ms Morar Mrs Jogindar Kaur were also present at the meeting.
At his meeting, Mr Thapar said that New Zealand was only a primary producer and that there were not many industries that added value.
“I am keen to bring qualified experts such as jewellery makers from India and set up a business hub in New Zealand. This would help strengthen our relations,” he said.
Mr Thapar also mentioned about the establishment of ‘New Zealand India Friendship Society’ to promote better understanding between the people of both countries.
“Membership to the organisation will be based on subscriptions with members of Indian and Non-Indian origin,” he said.
Mr Thapar said that he had established a similar organisation in Lebanon (where he was India’s Ambassador to Beirut) and that among the activities included visits by businesses, prominent Indian chefs and Bollywood celebrities.
Mrs Joginder Kaur was also present at the meeting.
Our editorial, ‘Indian Association deserves credit and support’ appears under Viewlink.