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CAB Slams Cowboy Immigration Consultants

CAB Slams Cowboy Immigration Consultants

The New Zealand Association of Citizen's Advice Bureaux (NZACAB) today called for the regulation of immigration consultants to stamp out corrupt and exploitative practices.

According to NZACAB's Chief Executive, Nick Toonen, "Citizens Advice Bureaux are appalled at the actions of some immigration consultants who take advantage of vulnerable new migrants and are also corruptly billing migrants for using our free service."

NZACAB research has shown that some immigration consultants are themselves using the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) free migrant advice service, and are referring migrants to CAB and billing the migrant for the CAB service.

"This unscrupulous behaviour by cowboy immigration consultants is the sort of thing the CAB service sees on a regular basis. It's time for the Government to regulate these cowboys out of the industry," Mr Toonen said.

The issues have been highlighted in an NZACAB submission to the Minister of Immigration in response to her discussion paper Options for Setting Enforceable Standards for Immigration Consultants.

"NZACAB welcomes initial Government efforts to address the exploitation of migrants by some immigration consultants, and we're very keen to sit down with the Minister and industry representatives to find a lasting solution to this problem," said Mr Toonen.

"All too often we're sorting out the mess left by these cowboy immigration consultants - and it's people's lives that are being messed with. It's difficult enough to move to a new country without being ripped-off when you arrive, and having your ability to stay jeopardised by unscrupulous individuals providing wrong information, poor advice and corrupt services."

Typical cases found during NZACAB's research on immigration consultants include:

An immigration consultant sent a client to the CAB for advice because he did not have all the necessary information. The consultant subsequently billed the client for our free service.

A client sought a bureau's help to fill in an immigration form. In the course of the conversation our worker discovered that the client had already paid a lawyer to do the work but the lawyer had failed to meet the Immigration Service's deadlines.

An immigration consultant asked the bureau to complete applications on behalf of his clients, whom he was going to charge for our work

One bureau has had several clients, including medical doctors, engineers and architects, who had been told by an overseas-based consultant that work would be available to them on their arrival in New Zealand. The consultant did not inform them that they would need to apply for registration (with the relevant professional body). Nor had they been told of the fees, examinations and other requirements for a New Zealand qualification.

A client had paid $4000 to an immigration consultant who promised her a job and permanent residency. She had not heard from the consultant for over three months when she came into the bureau for help.

NZACAB has recommended to the Minister for Immigration that she sit down with representatives of ethnic, migrant and community groups, and immigration consultants to develop enforceable controls over the industry in New Zealand.

NZACAB acknowledges efforts done by some in the industry, namely the Association for Migration and Investment, to establish a voluntary code of conduct for immigration consultants. However, more stringent controls are needed over the industry and these controls must be enforceable.

"We recommend that migrants contact their local Citizens Advice Bureau for free, confidential and informed advice and assistance on immigration matters," Mr Toonen said.

ends

Media comment: contact Nick Toonen, Chief Executive,

(04) 382 8759 or mobile 021 135 6085

Background information: contact Ross Bell, Social Policy & Information Officer,

on (04) 382 8759 or mobile 025 294 9722

Note: Copies of the NZACAB submission are available on CAB's web site,

www.cab.org.nz

BACKGROUND INFORMATION ABOUT THE NEW ZEALAND ASSOCIATION OF CITIZENS ADVICE BUREAUX

The New Zealand Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux (NZACAB) provides a national Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) service which provides free to all individuals an impartial and confidential service of information, advice and support and makes responsible use of the experience so gained.

The aims of the NZACAB are:

* To ensure that individuals do not suffer through ignorance of their rights and responsibilities or of the services available: or through an inability to express their needs effectively.

* To exert a responsible influence on the development of social policies and services, both locally and nationally.

There are 91 Citizens Advice Bureaux throughout the country, handling over half a million enquiries each year. In these bureaux over 2,700 trained volunteers take time to listen, offer options of relevant services and information, and, as necessary, work with clients to identify an effective course of action.

In 1999 the CAB Service received over 6,800 inquiries nationally about immigration issues, and enquiries during 2000 have increased.

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