11 Jan 2019

Move to help stranded Chinese workers with visa variation

12:48 pm on 11 January 2019

The government will try to help a group of up to 30 Chinese construction workers who have been left without work and a place to live.

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway in RNZ's Auckland studio.

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway says the workers' welfare is a priority. Photo: RNZ

In December, RNZ reported the group's concerns about Peter Li, who they said they paid tens of thousands of dollars for work visas.

The men were given contracts with a labour hire company, National Personnel Limited (NPL).

They were promised steady work, but the men said that had not happened and on Monday the group was trespassed from their temporary accommodation.

Police were called when they tried to retrieve their belongings the next day.

The workers are restricted from working for any company other than NPL because of the type of visa they hold.

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said Immigration New Zealand was working with the men and the Unite union to see what help it could offer.

He said Unite union has handed over a list of 57 workers who need help with their visas.

"The sorts of things that they'll be looking into is, can there be a variation to their visas that allows them to pick up work [with other employers].

"I believe that a number of employers have come forward and offered the opportunity to work, and that's what these workers are looking for. They just want to be able to work, earn some money, and take care of themselves whilst they're in New Zealand."

Mr Lees-Galloway said the workers' welfare was a priority.

Police said no one had been arrested over the trespass but they were still investigating whether any offences were committed.

Meanwhile, a worker Chen Genxiang said a Chinese community group had provided accommodation for about 18 of the men.

"Two women from the community group came yesterday," she said through a translator.

"They're also Chinese. They gave us some food. We felt reassured. They told us that they will help us to make contact with the Chinese consulate here and get back the money we paid in China."

Immigration New Zealand said the options available to the workers would depend on their personal circumstances.

An Immigration New Zealand investigation into Mr Li is ongoing.

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