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NBR Poll on Migration Worrisome

NBR Poll on Migration Worrisome

Today’s NBR-HP Invent poll, which says 45% of New Zealanders believe there are too many Asian migrants, is worrisome on several counts, The University of Auckland’s New Zealand Asia Institute Director, James Kember, said today.

“First of all, it demonstrates that the message about the benefits of immigration are still not fully appreciated or well-understood - despite efforts of government, the Asia 2000 Foundation and other organisations to get this across.

“Secondly, it exacerbates a confusion about what constitutes an immigrant. I’d wager that some of the concern about numbers of migrants, especially here in Auckland, is directed at people who are themselves permanent residents or New Zealand citizens of long standing.”

“Those expressing reservations about large numbers of Asians visible in Auckland are almost certainly not in a position to distinguish between those here for a three-month language course, the ones here on a holiday, those undertaking long-term tuition (all of whom bring tourist and education dollars that benefit the country as a whole), the permanent residents and the citizens who have been here for generations.”

“There is a somewhat unfortunate tendency in some quarters to view all Asians as ‘foreigners’.” The fact of the matter is that we need to think very carefully what we mean when we use the term ‘New Zealander’. These days, not all are Pakeha or European.

Dr Kember drew attention to a series of seminars on the challenges facing Asian communities in Auckland that his Institute has just hosted with the Auckland University of Technology. “On several occasions, we were reminded quite forcibly about what one participant referred to as the ‘banana’ issue: the fact that there are today many New Zealanders born and bred here, perhaps not even speaking an Asian language but who, because of their ethnic background, look Asian.

“When groups gather around the campus or school grounds, some of these people find it hard to decide which group they best fit - the “Kiwis” or the “Asians”.

“The seminar that focussed on employment showed clearly that while migrants were made welcome on the strength of their qualifications, a quantum leap was required for them to obtain requisite employment.

“Sometimes this was a supply/demand issue, but for some, it was clear that the barriers are more cultural than professional.”

“The debate over immigration policy, and whether to encourage new migrants to think in terms of living in centres other than Auckland, is one matter. But there are issues such as integration, cultural acceptance, education employment for those now here on which more work needs to be done. The Institute, and other departments of the university, have these firmly in view, Dr Kember added.

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