Farm Workers Exploited Under Minister’s Nose
23 February 2003
Immigrant Farm Workers Exploited Under Minister’s Nose
New Zealand First has accused the Immigration Minister of condoning a dubious scheme under which Ukrainian workers come here as low paid farm labourers.
Canterbury based list MP Ron Mark says three of the workers fled from their farms on Thursday, after he started making inquiries, acting in conjunction with Gale Campbell, who runs Business Resources Ltd in Rangiora.
Their inquiries established the three workers were part of a group of 11 Ukrainians who paid $US2000 to an agent acting for a Christchurch man – himself a Russian immigrant.
The trio claim they were exploited while
working on Ashburton farms and
have lodged a complaint with the Human Rights Commission. They were paid a salary of $20,000 for working a 13-hour day and $130 was deducted each week from their pay for “expenses”.
The workers have also asked the commission to approach the Immigration Service to seek approval to take up alternative work arranged by Ms Campbell.
Mr Mark claims the Immigration Service rubber-stamped the work visas, without ever checking the workers’ credentials, their ability to function in New Zealand, and the claims made in references provided by the agent.
“The treatment of these people has been disgraceful
and the Government is
obliged to help them. I believe there are others too scared to speak out for fear of being physically abused or deported.”
“The fundamental failure was the immigration authorities not carrying out the most basic checks and this created a lax environment where exploitation could occur.
“This scheme was organised in Christchurch under the nose of the Immigration Minister Lianne Dalziel. We know that other workers have been brought into New Zealand under such arrangements,” said Mr Mark.