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Income Support Vital For NZ’s Migrant Workers

Community Law has joined the chorus of concern about the humanitarian crisis developing for migrant workers who have lost their jobs due to Covid-19 and are now stuck in New Zealand without any income.

“The New Zealand Government has strongly advocated for New Zealand citizens on temporary visas in Australia to receive income support. Meanwhile, our Government is not providing migrant workers here in New Zealand with the income support they desperately need.” says Sue Moroney, CEO of Community Law Centres O Aotearoa.

“We’re calling on Minister Sepuloni to use her power under the Social Security Act to grant emergency benefits to migrant workers because of the epidemic. This current situation where thousands of migrant workers have lost their jobs through an epidemic and through no fault of their own is the very reason that power exists in the legislation.”

Community Law clients are among those temporary visa holders with no income while the world deals with Covid-19.

“Relying on food parcels and emergency accommodation from stretched Civil Defence Emergency Management funds is not working and it is unrealistic.”

“Because of Covid-19, they can’t earn a wage, they can’t go home and they have no financial support - even though the Government has a specific power to address that,” says Sue. “Some of these people have been earning, paying taxes and paying their own way for years when New Zealand needed them to fill labour shortages. They deserve to be treated better, just like we insisted New Zealanders in Australia deserved to be treated better”

Community Law has been raising the issue with Government Ministers and ministries since New Zealand entered Alert level 4.

“We initially felt assured the Government would do the right thing, but they have yet to do so,” says Sue. “It is time the Government showed the same quick, empathetic response to our migrant community that it has been a hallmark of its response to COVID-19.”

Background

Twenty-four Community Law Centres work out of over 140 locations across New Zealand to provide free legal help and advice to those who are unable to pay for a private lawyer or who do not have access to legal aid. This advice covers all aspects of New Zealand’s legal system, including family law, employment issues, housing problems, consumer advice and criminal law. As well as around 170 staff, Community Law’s services are boosted by over 1,200 volunteer lawyers who run clinics and deliver free advice and assistance.

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