23 Feb 2024

Vietnamese migrants ‘sold everything’ to pay for work visas, claim promised jobs non-existent’

6:44 am on 23 February 2024

By Lincoln Tan of NZ Herald

Sky Duong (front) with some members of the group of Vietnamese migrants that paid thousands for work visas but arrived in New Zealand to non-existent jobs.

Sky Duong (front) with some members of the group that paid thousands for work visas but allegedly arrived in New Zealand to non-existent jobs. Photo: Supplied/NZ Herald

A group of 16 Vietnamese allegedly paid $203,000 after being promised work and new lives, but arrived to find no jobs and were left with a mountain of debt that they say will be impossible for them to pay off.

A spokeswoman for the group, Sky Duong, said the group were recruited through Facebook to work for New Zealand company Do Painters Limited and had been promised a wage of $50 an hour.

She said they each paid $35,000 and an additional $15,000 for those with spouses and children for the job offer and an agent referred to them by the company to support their application for the work visas.

Acting National Manager Immigration Investigations, Jason Perry, said the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, which oversees Immigration NZ (INZ), was aware of the alleged immigration concern and was in contact with a representative for the migrants.

"At this stage, we can't comment further as releasing details could jeopardise any investigation we pursue," he said.

Tu Dinh Do, 52, the director of Do Painters Limited, said he was aware the group had paid agents in Vietnam, but denied that he had personally received any money.

Do said what they paid was for the services of immigration agents, lawyers and fees to INZ for their visa applications.

Duong said the migrants, who spoke no English, came from a small fishing village called Dam Mon in the Vietnamese Khanh Hoa Province.

"They are very simple-minded people, and their daily lives are just about fishing and cooking. Some of them have never even been to school, and their daily wage there is only about $12-$15 a day," Duong said.

"So when they were told about this opportunity to work in NZ, where they can get paid $50 an hour and have proper education for their children, they were prepared to sell everything they own and borrow large sums of money to come."

Some members of the group of Vietnamese migrants that paid thousands for work visas but arrived in NZ to non-existent jobs.

Twenty-eight people are being packed into a five-bedroom house in Papatoetoe with more arriving next week. Photo: Supplied/NZ Herald

Van Tom Nguyen, 42, sold his house and everything he owned to raise the $50,000 needed for visas that he hoped would be the ticket to a new life and a better future for his wife and children.

Another migrant worker, Van Chi Nguyen, 25, sold his motorbike and fishing boat to pay for his $35,000 visa, hoping that the job in New Zealand would help him support his sick mother and father, who is suffering from mental illness.

After responding to the Facebook post, Duong said they were then contacted by a broker who helped them with their visa applications.

"They are fishermen and have no painting experience needed for the jobs that were offered."

Since arriving in New Zealand between two and four months ago, they claim that none from the group had received any work or pay. They also claim they were not given any employment contracts.

INZ said in their 36-month work visa approval that they could only work in Auckland for Do Painters Limited and must be paid $29.66 per hour.

Duong is letting the group stay at her home in Papatoetoe where currently 28 people live, and up to six people are sharing a room in her five-bedroom property.

"This living arrangement was supposed to be temporary, but what can we do now when they don't even have money for food so how can they find somewhere to rent," she said.

"They are stuck also because they have sold everything back in Vietnam and have nothing to go back to. The amount of money they owe is impossible to pay back."

Company director Tu Do rejects the allegation that he had sold fake job offers to Vietnamese migrants, and claimed that the migrants failed to turn up for work after arriving in NZ.

Company director Tu Do rejects the allegation that he had sold fake job offers to Vietnamese migrants, and claimed that the migrants failed to turn up for work after arriving in New Zealand. Photo: Supplied/NZ Herald

Duong said they were fighting to get the money from Do Painters or get open work visas that would allow them to find work and slowly pay back their debt.

"Yes, I recruited them from Vietnam, but I have no idea that they had even arrived in New Zealand and they never reported to me for work," Do said.

Do said five from the group were sponsored to work for his company, which is an accredited employer, while the others were family members.

He said he had been in touch with a family representative to tell them that he would cancel their visas if they failed to turn up for work by February 29.

"I have been in business for more than 10 years and my company employs 54 staff," Do said.

"My turnover is more than one million (dollars) a year, and I don't do anything illegal."

Do said they were given employment contracts which were submitted along with their visa applications, and denied they had been asked to pay their own PAYE.

INZ's Jason Perry encouraged anyone who thought they could be a victim of immigration fraud or exploitation to call Crime Stoppers on 0800 555 111.

"This is a confidential and safe way to make a report," Perry said.

"We take all alleged immigration fraud seriously whether it is a case of one individual or a case involving many."

This story was originally published by the NZ Herald.