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Newcomers Urged To Unite

Newcomers Urged To Unite

Immigrants to New Zealand have been urged to unite behind a legal challenge to recent changes in immigration rules.

Barrister and solicitor Alex Lee told a weekend gathering of members of Auckland's Chinese and Korean communities that the government had caved-in to political pressure when it announced the restrictive new rules on 19th November last year.

Mr Lee was speaking at a meeting called by the New Zealand Association for Migration & Investment (NZAMI), which has instituted proceedings in the High Court against retrospective application of the new rules.

"You have all spent a lot of time and money and have shown a lot of spirit in coming to this country. You've come here because you and your families want to start over again as New Zealanders. You should not suffer because the government has decided to apply new laws to an existing situation," he told his audience.

"People who applied under the old policy and who now have their prospects blighted by new laws must work together to reverse the changes. As individuals we can never be as strong as when we act collectively, " he said, suggesting that immigrants help fund NZAMI's legal challenge.

"I don't think government realises the potential political strength of immigrant communities. The government needs to listen to them and not just to people who are scare-mongering about immigration. It should also be listening to long-standing New Zealanders from immigrant backgrounds, including respected business leaders who are concerned about the damage done to our economy by treating newcomers unfairly, " he added.

Under the new rules, business people holding Long Term Business Visas face the prospect of having their residence applications processed under different criteria to those applying when they started their businesses. Profitable companies, employing New Zealand staff, may have to close because owners have difficulty in achieving stringent new standards for English language skills.

In addition, stiff new English language criteria are also being applied to General Skills and Investment migrants, including those who applied before 19 November.

The changes also restrict Job Search visas for General Skills applicants to people seeking work in fields covered by the Occupational Shortage List (OSL). The OSL changes frequently and applicants have no way of knowing which fields will be on the list when their applications are eventually considered.

NZAMI's Chairman, Bill Milnes told Saturday's gathering that the rules changes, along with interpretations of policy by the New Zealand Immigration Service, were effectively closing down both General Skills and Business Immigration to New Zealand

Mr Milnes described retrospective application of the new rules as unfair, as contrary to natural justice and as a breach of the Bill of Rights. He said that a High Court hearing of NZAMI's challenge to the new rules was expected to take place late next month and that it was highly likely that the challenge would succeed.

"It is important to note that every immigration officer I have spoken to, supports our action and at least two have resigned in principle over the rules changes and current interpretations," he said.

More than 100 members of the Chinese and Korean communities attended Saturday's gathering, which took place at the Mercure Hotel.

Amongst the audience was National Party List MP and Ethnic Affairs spokesperson, Pansy Wong, who said that she would be asking questions in Parliament over points raised at the meeting.

"I was interested to hear that the New Zealand Association for Migration & Investment's challenge to the rules changes has received support from Immigration Service managers, two of whom have resigned over it. I hope the Minister of Immigration and the Immigration Service's Chief Executive take this message very seriously," she said.

NZAMI represents nearly 200 members nationwide, including immigration and investment consultants, banks, business specialists and financial advisors. The Association seeks consistent, fair, reliable immigration policies of long-tem benefit to New Zealand.

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