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Minister must seize opportunity to sort immigration crisis

National understands the Immigration Minister intends to make a long-overdue announcement this week about issues plaguing New Zealand’s immigration system after years of inaction and postponed promises, says National’s Immigration spokesperson Erica Stanford.

“Having consistently ducked for cover throughout the pandemic, it is imperative the Minister seizes this opportunity to finally address all the key issues that have landed our immigration system in crisis.

“In the past four years this Government has broken our immigration system and trashed our reputation as a destination of choice for highly skilled migrants.

“With a years-long backlog of applications, and a frozen expression of interest system for new residence applications, many thousands of valuable, skilled migrants have given up on life in New Zealand and opted for a more certain future overseas. This has further exacerbated labour shortages in some of our most critical industries.

“The Government has now backed itself into a corner after years of poor policy and poor planning in the immigration space. The Minister now has little choice but to adopt National’s policy to clear the residency backlog and to create a pathway to residence for those workers who stuck with us during the pandemic. Any policy the Minister announces must be effective in stopping the exodus of skilled people crucial to our health response and economic recovery.

Whether or not the he picks up part or all of National’s policy, the Minister must:

· Prioritise residence applications for critical healthcare workers as a matter of urgency and offer residence on arrival for specialist ICU healthcare workers

· Create a pathway to residence for those migrants who have stuck with us through the Covid-19 pandemic

· Reopen the EOI pool and processing these applications with urgency

· Create a fast-tracked, streamlined process for residence applications to quickly clear the backlog

· Allow those onshore applicants in the EOI pool who have passed the age eligibility requirements while trapped in the queue to remain eligible for residence.

· Prioritise residency applications of families with adult children so that they can work or study

“This Government has a track record of being big on announcements but disastrous on detail and delivery. The detail in this announcement will be crucial which is why it is so concerning that the Minister hasn’t bothered to consult with the sector over his plans to iron out any potential problems.

“Any announcement must have a clear indication of how the Minister intends to streamline the residency process and improve resourcing of the residency processing team. If there is one thing this Immigration Minister excels at, it is creating queues. The temptation here will be for him simply shift migrants out of one queue of misery to another even longer queue and claim he has solved the problem.

“We can’t afford to lose any more skilled migrants because they have no certainty around when they can become a resident. They are in New Zealand because there is a skills shortage. These people have played a pivotal role in getting New Zealand through the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic. Resolving the immigration crisis and offering a ‘Covid contribution’ pathway to residence is the right thing to for our migrants, the communities they live in, and the businesses that employ them.”

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