7 Sep 2016

Migrants still waiting for move-to-regions policy

6:14 pm on 7 September 2016

Fijians living in Christchurch want to know when they'll get their chance for residency under an immigration policy change promised more than a year ago.

John Key talking to media after his leader's speech.

Prime Minister John Key speaking after the immigration policy announcement at the National Party's annual conference in Auckland in July last year. Photo: RNZ / Demelza Leslie

In July last year, Prime Minister John Key announced the policy, aimed at giving a limited number of people on temporary work visas in the South Island an opportunity to apply for residency.

The government intended offering residency to people who committed to regions in the South Island where they had put down roots, with Mr Key saying detailed policy on this change would be released early this year. However, no details have been released yet.

Arthi Devi has lived in Christchurch for eight years but been unable to find work in the field she trained in, childhood education, without residency - working as a carer instead.

She said Mr Key's announcement had given her false hope.

"It gave hope to me and to our entire community on who is on work visa, if the law changes we can move forward, like buying house, going for further education.''

The government intended to offer residency to people who committed to regions in the South Island where they have put down roots, with John Key saying detailed policy on the change would be released early this year.

That policy change has not yet eventuated.

A spokesperson for Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse said he was not available for interview, but that the policy initiative was definitely still on the work programme and the details were still being worked through.

Ms Devi said she knew about 20 families in Christchurch in a similar situation and they were all waiting to hear about the change.

"I've been making phone calls to Immigration and also some of the people from the Fijian community, they also have been calling - but the only feedback we get is 'nothing is happening at the moment'.

"They're also waiting for feedback, but, nothing.''

Ms Devi's daughter Alvina Lal, 20, was waiting for a student visa to be approved so she could study.

She said without residency she and her friends will have to pay thousands in international student fees.

"There's a lot of frustration going on. If we want to study something else we can't, cos we have to study something that's a skilled job," she said.

"It's pretty much going back to the type of job that our parents did. End of the day, we're back to scratch.''

Abdul Khan, also from Fiji, has been a bus driver in Christchurch for the past nine years.

He said the working visa he and many of his friends were on was subject to renewal every three years.

"We don't know where we stand. We pay taxes like other people, they get privileges and we don't.

"We pay full fees, we work hard, some of us have bought property here, we have children here, they go to school.

"We have nothing left back in our country because we have been here for for so long.''

Sudhanvry Nagaiya has also been a bus driver in Christchurch since 2011.

He said there should be exemptions for people who had been working in New Zealand for so long.

"A very unstable kind of situation, it's the kind of life we live - it's neither here nor there.

"We don't know if we'll be living here for good, or if we'll be refused and sent home. We cannot invest here, we cannot plan our future well.''

He said workers from the Fijian community had done their own bit for Christchurch, forming community groups and helping people in stress.

"We ourselves suffered during the earthquakes, we had no toilets, we had to leave our homes and go away to some other place.

"That's all financial stress, we don't get paid much anyway. Apart from that, living on a work visa for so long doesn't permit us to make permanent decisions.''

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