ACT welcomes the release of the Public Service Commission’s review into the Accredited Employer Work Visa scheme.

We’re glad to see confirmation that changes are already happening within MBIE, and welcome the Minister considering broader changes to the settings.

But ACT stresses the urgency of the action that must be taken to protect the reputation of New Zealand’s immigration system. We cannot afford to become known as a haven for employment scams. These scams do a disservice to the majority of honest employers who rely on the good reputation of our immigration system to attract the talent they need.

ACT is calling on MBIE leadership to use all levers at their disposal to close avenues for the dishonest to use the scheme to commit fraud against would-be workers.

Initiatives and proposals to untie workers from their accredited employer can go some way to prevent workers from effectively being held hostage in their often-low paying jobs. But this approach alone is not enough. In many cases, the jobs promised to immigrants under the scheme don’t even exist, or the jobs are terminated immediately. Simply releasing scammed immigrants into the labour market turns the scam into someone else’s problem, which is why ACT is firm that action must be taken to ensure people aren’t brought into the country under false pretences in the first place.

If the scheme cannot be fixed, it needs to be scrapped.

This is a problem created by the state. We have handed an unscrupulous minority of self-proclaimed employers the opportunity to scam trusting foreigners, and the results have been horrific. Would-be workers have been lured into the scheme by the credibility lended to it by the New Zealand Government’s name, and as lawmakers we should all feel complicit until this mess is sorted.

This scheme was initially launched by Labour as a knee-jerk reaction to worker shortages post-COVID. Reports emerged quickly of scammed workers living in squalor, having been given false promises of work under the scheme. Labour failed to act fast enough, and we have waited too long for the results of the review, so now is the time for action.

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