WITH a tinge of anger in his voice, Philippine Ambassador to New Zealand Jesus Domingo decried the practice of certain individuals and enterprises in exploiting Filipinos who seek better lives in New Zealand. Speaking in the first Pulong-Pulong held during Pistang Pilipino sa Hamilton on Oct. 26, 2019, the diplomat sought an end to the scheme of education agents in promising a pathway towards residency to unknowing applicants. He also deplored those providing pastoral services for placing new arrivals in squalid accommodation and allowing them to be victimized by unscrupulous service providers.
Domingo was one of the speakers in the forum where I served as moderator. Other speakers included Paulo Garcia, member of Parliament; Ruth Burgess, migrant rights advocate; and Ben Dunbar-Smith, relationship manager of Immigration New Zealand.
Garcia called on victims to come forward so as to hold those engaged in exploitation accountable for their nefarious acts. He said there exist processes both in the Philippines and New Zealand for those who seek redress and that there is no need to pass new laws or enter into bilateral agreements. Burgess cited an example of how exploitation was committed and that with proper legal assistance, a victim could find solace and resolution from deplorable circumstances.
Dunbar-Smith discussed the new policies on visa options to bring or join family in New Zealand. He said that the INZ website provides for all the information for those wanting to work or migrate to New Zealand.
On Oct. 29, the New Zealand Herald came out with a news report entitled, “Migrant exploitation affecting country’s ‘international reputation’, says Government.” Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said “exploitation was negatively impacting the wider workforce and businesses, as well as the country’s international reputation.” At any point of time, there are 235,000 temporary migrant workers in New Zealand, consisting of 193,000 people holding work visas and 42,000 international students with the right to work. The most exploited are those hired by subcontractors in the construction and telecommunication industries. Exploitation is also prevalent in the agricultural and hospitality industries.
It was also reported that “Filipinos in the construction industry sometimes had to pay recruiters $8,000 to $15,000 to find work and then faced “deductions” from their pay for everything from protective gear to internet access.”
A good number of us, Filipinos who have called New Zealand home, are as concerned as the government. There have been community initiatives to help and assist victims, but as long as there are unscrupulous individuals in the Philippines who take advantage of that Filipino dream to work or live overseas, the problem may not be solved soon.