Minister of Immigration Andrew Little, has re-affirmed Labour’s commitment to allowing overstayers who meet the right criteria to apply to have their status legalised.
He said a re-elected Labour Government would pass legislation in its first 100 days to deliver a one-off regularisation programme for overstayers who had been in New Zealand for 10 years or more.
The Minister’s comments follow claims by Tongan Lawyer Nalesoni Tupou that Labour was targeting Tongans for votes.
Tupou questioned the timing of the announcement of the amnesty policy in the middle of the election campaign. He asked why Labour did not offer the amnesty while they were in government.
“When the general election will be over, and if the Labour would win, they need to submit a bill to the Parliament to be approved as a law to allow those who are overstayers to apply to make their staying in New Zealand legal,” Tupou said.
“It is a long story as Labour will need to lobby for some other political parties to support their amnesty promise to 10 year plus overstayers. It is unclear whether any political party would support Labour’s amnesty proposed policy.”
In response, a spokesperson for the Minister said: “We want to ensure every survivor of the Dawn Raids era who has never left New Zealand has the opportunity to apply for regularisation.”
“The best way to achieve that is to by passing legislation in Parliament, because this will give people confidence to come forward to apply.
“Labour has been upfront about the timelines on when we can deliver regularisation, which is after the election. The historic Dawn Raids Apology has happened since the last election and this is a new policy that Labour is offering, so it’s appropriate that the next step is voters are given the opportunity to have their say.”
“It is always true that any government needs to have a majority of votes in Parliament to be able to pass any legislation. Other parties’ policies are a matter for them (and the National Party has been clear that they do not support regularisation). What voters can be certainty about is Labour’s policy is to pass legislation in our first 100 days to deliver regularisation.”
During a radio debate organised by RNZ Pacific and the Pacific Media Network, Labour’s Carmel Sepuloni and the Greens’ Teanau Tuiono backed the amnesty.
Sepuloni said the amnesty announcement was not an attempt at baiting voters.
“You have to think about everything that has been expected of immigration New Zealand in the last couple of years and the immense pressure that they have been under,” Sepuloni said.
Green Party Pacific Peoples spokesperson Teanau Tuiano criticised Labour for taking too long.
“Amnesty for overstayers is more than timely. It is late,” she said.
Both National and ACT have said they would not back an amnesty.
Key issues for Pasifika voters during the debate were health, with half of voters unable to afford dentistry and housing. RNZ said 11 percent of Pacific children lived in damp and mouldy homes, where they are 80 times more likely to develop acute rheumatic fever, which can lead to heart disease and death.
Education was also seen as a major issue, with National’s Fonoti Agnes Loheni claiming the government had failed Pasifika children. She said pass rates were declining and that only 14.5 percent of Pasifika students reach the minimum curriculum for Maths compared to the rest of the population of 41.5 percent.
Crime remained a serious problem, with almost half Pasifika children likely to live around family violence. Pasifika children were twice as likely to be hospitalised due to assault, neglect and maltreatment.
All parties taking part in the radio debate said they were taking action on climate change.
In its formal statement on migration policy, Labour said it was committed to honouring the historic Dawn Raids Apology to Pacific people by backing it up with action.
It said the amnesty would not be limited to any particular group, meaning people from all migrant communities would be able to apply to regularise their visa status.
Labour said it expected between 14,000 and 20,000 people could be eligible, including every victim of the Dawn Raids era who has never left New Zealand.
Successful applicants would have access to more Government services, such as higher education.
Children born in New Zealand to a parent who was an overstayer would have more certain access to work rights, education and other public services.
Early voting starts on Monday, October 2. People can vote at any voting place in New Zealand.
On election day, Saturday, October 14, all voting places will be open from 9am to 7pm.
Preliminary results will be released from 7pm as soon as the polls close.
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