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Immigration Debate Needs to be About How We Treat Migrants

Immigration debate needs to be about how we treat migrants in New Zealand, not just how many we let in, says Multicultural New Zealand

Multicultural New Zealand held its inaugural immigration symposium in Dunedin last weekend and reconfirmed its commitment to supporting ethnic, migrant and refugee communities in New Zealand.

Spokespeople from the National, Labour and the Green parties presented their respective immigration policies to representatives from migrant communities from across New Zealand.

“What was clear from the symposium is that political parties are focused on the level of immigration coming into New Zealand. What we didn’t hear was anything about how we should support migrants settle and integrate into our communities,” said Pancha Narayanan, the new President of Multicultural New Zealand.

“Immigration is not just a question of how many - it is also about ensuring that immigration at whatever level is done in a way that is positive for New Zealand and for the families who choose to make this country their home.”

“We have volunteers in 57 locations throughout the country who do a huge amount to help migrants settle and integrate into New Zealand, and do so on a shoe string budget.”

“Their work is essential to ensuring that migrants settle into their communities and contribute their full potential to our country,” said Mr Narayanan.

“There is no point just talking about whether we should increase or decrease migration with each economic cycle, we also need to make sure those that do come to New Zealand are welcomed and supported.”

For this reason Multicultural New Zealand was extremely saddened that the Canterbury Migrants Centre has had to close its doors due to a lack of funding.

“This was extremely frustrating and shows how precarious funding is for these important volunteer-based services.”

It also shows a lack of coordination and support from agencies.

“Just as the Christchurch City Council, the Canterbury Multicultural Society, Ngāi Tahu and others had done an outstanding job to develop a Multicultural Strategy for Christchurch, Te Rautaki Mātāwaka Rau, the centre has had to close.”

Migrants contribute about $3 billion annually to the New Zealand economy, and yet we are struggling to maintain an even modest migrant centre in our third largest city.

“There is a serious lack of investment in community-based support and this has led to a worrying deficit in multicultural infrastructure in New Zealand. What we need is sustained multicultural baseline funding” said Mr Narayanan.

Multicultural New Zealand however was pleased they were able to provide a forum for a credible political debate. It was noted that the Greens used the immigration symposium to apologise for its previous policy to set immigration at 1% of the total population and has now decided to debate immigration issues based on values rather than numbers.

“We are grateful for all political parties who attended and spoke with us. We know that immigration is a heated issue at the moment and the general election is looming, so it was good to have the opportunity for an open dialogue.”

“We welcome a constructive debate about immigration, but we urge everyone to exercise caution with how immigration issues are presented and the language that is used. A glib remark to grab a headline can cause unnecessary distress for migrant families throughout New Zealand” said Mr Narayanan.

Multicultural New Zealand’s 28th Annual General Meeting:

Multicultural New Zealand also held its 28th Annual General Meeting in Dunedin on 30 June 30 – 2 July 2017. The results of the elected appointees include:

• Pancha Narayanan, National President
• Raveen Annamalai, Vice President
• Meggy Bartlett-McBride, Secretary
• Alexis LewGor, Treasurer
• Roshan (Ross) Patel, Youth President
• Lonie Martins, Women Council President
• Gul Zaman, Seniors Council President


Multicultural NZ: Federation of Multicultural Councils Inc. is a national organisation with 20 constituent regional multicultural councils and 37 Newcomers Networks throughout New Zealand and national councils for women, youth, seniors and business.

More information can be found at multiculturalnz.org.nz

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