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Government's Overstayer Policy Needs Examination

Government's Overstayer Policy Needs to be Re-examined

Monday 13th Nov 2000 Penny Webster Media Release -- Other

“Only 455 of New Zealand’s estimated 22,000 overstayers have applied for work permits in the first month of the Government’s six-month transitional overstayer strategy,” said ACT Immigration Spokesman Penny Webster.

Releasing freshly obtained answers to Parliamentary Questions by the Minister of Immigration, Mrs Webster said the disappointing results were consistent with the feedback she was receiving from immigration experts and confused families of overstayers.

“Although this rate may pick up a little in the remaining five months, it appears at this early stage that the overwhelming majority of overstayers will remain overstayers, despite the Minister’s hype.

The figures add to the overstayer policy concerns following the Government’s damage control dumping of Cabinet Papers released under the Official Information Act, which revealed that the four key Departments involved in the policy all opposed the decision.

The Ministry of Social Policy and the Department of Work and Income opposed the proposal as costly and premature on the basis of work to date. Treasury opposed the proposal on the grounds that it would be costly, and as many overstayers would be likely to have low skills, it would increase the gaps between Pacific Islanders and the rest, socially and economically. Foreign Affairs and Trade opposed the proposal on grounds that are considered so sensitive, they have been withheld from the papers.

“Remarkably, against all this advice, the Government for its own reasons was so determined to push ahead with the overstayer policy, that it ignored all but the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs’ advice,” said Penny Webster.

“And to cut the cost, they decided to include the estimated eligible 7,000 overstayers in the annual target, therefore cutting the number of persons able to come in under the Family and Humanitarian immigration streams.

“The policy has been unravelling from the start, with the Minister blaming officials for misleading her, a controversial dawn deportation, and outrage from the Chinese community over the exclusion of their refugees from the Transitional Policy.

“The Minister should front up and explain why she has persisted with this rushed policy against overwhelming advice, and why she considers officials who told her it would not resolve the overstayer problem were wrong. Immigration policy is an important issue which needs to be dealt with sensibly and in its entirety - not in this ad hoc fashion,” concluded Mrs Webster.

ENDS

For more information visit ACT online at http://www.act.org.nz or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at act@parliament.govt.nz.

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