21 Oct 2015

Immigration fraud 'won't target workers'

8:34 pm on 21 October 2015

More arrests could be made over document scam involving Filipino workers trying to get jobs in the New Zealand dairy industry.

A woman was arrested at her Waikato home yesterday. The dual Filipino/New Zealand national has been charged with offences relating to suspected fraudulent activity involving work visa applications from Filipinos.

Immigration New Zealand assistant general manager Peter Elms said it strongly suspected more Filipino dairy workers had provided false visa applications.

He said the Department's investigation will target those who benefit from the fraud, rather than the workers themselves.

"The investigations continue, so while charges have been laid against this particular woman, we don't rule out the fact that other charges will come for other people. Our emphasis, as far as investigation and prosecution go, is very much on the people who seek to get commercial benefit from doing such things."

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse said today he was extremely concerned about the potential scale of the alleged fraud, and options for how to respond were being canvassed at the moment.

"The investigation by Immigration New Zealand has uncovered more widespread concerns around the number of Filipino dairy workers currently in New Zealand who may have provided false information as part of their initial visa application.

"It is absolutely imperative that the integrity of the immigration system is maintained and that visa applicants who have lied on their application forms are not rewarded.

"However, we recognise the potential impact this situation may have on the dairy industry and I'm currently working with officials to consider options to ensure the dairy industry is not materially affected."

He was aware of concerns about delays for visa applications for Filipino workers.

"However, as this investigation has progressed, extra verification has been required and this has resulted in delays in some cases."

Immigration officials have put extra safeguards in place to make sure all new and existing applications are genuine, he said.

"I am confident that these additional measures will prevent the occurrence of any similar offending.

"In addition, the Labour Inspectorate is leading an operation to audit a number of farms in the Waikato, Canterbury and Southland to check compliance with labour and immigration laws."

An organisation that represents Filipino dairy workers in New Zealand has welcomed the arrest of the woman for visa fraud.

The Waikato representative of Migrante, the organisation of Filipino workers, Cristobal Espinosa said all suspected illegal recruiters must be prosecuted.

But he said the investigation by Immigration New Zealand had created uncertainty for many workers, with officials reviewing all work visa applications from Filipino nationals for the dairy industry in the past twelve months.

Mr Espinosa said the investigation had affected many innocent people and workers should now be given the chance to move on and work.