27 Aug 2020

Govt does not care about valid visas, wants testing

From First Up, 5:25 am on 27 August 2020

The health minister says officials will not "join the dots" between people getting covid-19 tests and whether they are here on a valid visa. Pacific leaders have raised concern that unlawful immigration status is driving people underground - potentially avoiding covid tests or not passing on full details to contact tracers. Deportations have plunged since February because of international border closures, transit options and the availability of flights. But those problems have also meant more people have stayed on past their visa expiration date, including stranded seasonal workers. The Health Minister, Chris Hipkins, yesterday underlined reassurances people without a valid visa will not be punished for being tested. In 2017, 14-thousand people were estimated to not have a valid visa - five thousand of them were from the Pacific. Immigration New Zealand says it's prioritising its actions against those who have criminal convictions or serious breaches of their visas. But an immigration lawyer says it is time to consider whether those hiding in the shadows should be allowed another chance to put their case. Richard Small, from Pacific Legal, told our reporter Gill Bonnett that does not mean an amnesty.