This is home.
A 15,000-strong petition for kindness to migrants in Aotearoa was delivered to Parliament this week, as the community rallied in solidarity. Carolina Albuquerque a Brazilian journalist, based in New Zealand for the past three years, looks into this week’s events.
I chose to come to New Zealand three years ago for one single reason: it’s the only country in the world that offered Brazilians the possibility to access the Work Holiday Visa.
I come from Brazil, a country with huge social issues. Poverty, corruption, violence, and, on top of that, an escalating pandemic with no end in sight. The opportunity of working, traveling, and learning a new language abroad was, to me, a once-in-a-lifetime experience and a chance to achieve a healthier and better standard of life.
I knew, however, that this decision would come with a huge challenge. When stepping into another country, we immediately lose our sense of belonging, the support of family and friends, our mother language, and, for most of the migrants, our professional career — in my case, journalism. We must start from zero.
I extended my stay after getting low-skilled visa sponsorship. During this time, I’ve worked in many different jobs, such as kiwifruit picking, housekeeping, cleaning, waitressing. Some of them on a minimum pay rate, in poor conditions of work and lots of hours a week just to be able to sustain myself.
Living in a town such as Wanaka, with a high cost of living, I had to give up lots of “stuff”, seen as basic for the New Zealanders. For the past two years, my cheap campervan has been my home, from summer to winter.
As a migrant worker myself, I see the call to “Be Kind to migrant workers — We need pathways to residency” as a sign of hope on the horizon of those migrant workers who had big dreams when deciding to leave behind their home country. Using the platform OurActionStation, two unions (Unite Union and Migrant Workers Association) collected over 15 thousand signatures on a petition officially delivered to Members of Parliament and New Zealand Government this week.
The petition asks the Government to create a new pathway to residency for anyone currently on an essential skill or graduate job search, as well as allow ‘normally resident’ New Zealanders stuck overseas to return to Aotearoa NZ on the same basis as citizens. Another ask is to offer migrants who may overstay their visas a pathway to residency and provide an extension of the time period for low-skilled visas (from 6 to 12 months).
This is an urgent and important issue to be addressed by the Government, taking into consideration that migrant workers are those, in high numbers, keeping the country going by doing work that many New Zealanders are simply not interested in.
We are out there cleaning, building, serving, and cooking the food, picking the fruits, and nursing, just to name a few. Despite the hard work, after the Covid 19 crises, most of us are sleeping and waking up with a distressing feeling of uncertainty about tomorrow.
In presenting the petition Unite Union advocate, Mike Treen said, “This is an important message for the future of working people in New Zealand, not just for migrant workers currently in a very uncertain position awaiting a governor’s decision. Hopefully, the decision-taking in the coming week will fix some of the long-standing problems that have existed and continue to exist in the labour market in New Zealand”.
Anu Kaloti, president of the Migrant Workers Association NZ, said “both offshore and onshore migrants continue to suffer because this government refuses to budge.”
“Hiding behind Covid has become the norm for the government to the extent that even legacy issues related to immigration and visa processing delays are being blamed on covid. Therefore, the debate did not lead to any relief for the suffering migrants.
But we are hopeful that the debate will add to the pressure mounting on the government to do the right thing by migrants — be kind.” — Anu Kaloti, Migrant Workers Association NZ
After having received the petition, Green MP, Ricardo Menéndez, and Labour MP Marja Lubeck, who chairs the Education and Workforce Select Committee, presented the petition to Parliament, on Thursday (13th May), in time for the debate around migrant’s rights. Hundreds of people were on Parliament steps in solidarity before the debate started.
“We see this as a positive step (the debate around immigration). Hopefully the beginnings of something more worthwhile for migrants who remain from one temporary visa to the next temporary visa”, said Anu.
According to Treen, up to the Covid-19 crises, Aotearoa had over 300,000 workers living here on a temporary basis.
If the Government is able to understand our situation and take action, we will be able to dream again or, at least, plan our lives with some security.