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ACT Party, Pasifika, Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme

ACT immigration policy shows racist double-standards

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ACT’s policy of free movement/trade between Anglosphere countries – Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom – shows a racist double standard, says Migrant and Refugee Rights Campaign spokesperson Gayaal Iddamalgoda.

“ACT claims to be the most consistently pro-migrant party, yet this policy lays bare that they will not address the actual barriers to free movement in our world today,” says Gayaal. “Migrants from the Anglosphere already experience far fewer barriers than those from the Global South.”

“Instead of pursuing regional partnership with our Pacific neighbours, ACT seeks to cement partnership of the rich nations against poor nations.”

“The Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme already discriminates against our Pacific neighbours, by holding the threat of deportation over workers, and allowing employers to control employees’ living situations, a power inequality which has opened the door to abuse,” adds Gayaal. “ACT’s proposed policy will not address these actual barriers for migrant workers, allowing the abuse of Pasi workers to continue.”

“Migration policy is one area where racist double-standards persist. ACT also wants to introduce a ‘values test’, an assimilationist policy borrowed from other Anglosphere countries. Actually, we must question our own values, not the values of people seeking a better life for themselves and their families.”

“The Migrant and Refugee Rights Campaign supports open borders to the Pacific, as a step towards a world with free movement for all workers.”

“Aotearoa/New Zealand must act as a Pacific nation, not a colonial vassal.”

ACT’s immigration policy also seeks to trim “overly generous entitlements” like pensions for those with only ten years’ residency, a policy which MARRC considers an unacceptable encroachment on NZ’s only remaining universal welfare entitlement.

Labour Party

Labour MP Chris Hipkins publicly disagrees with Labour immigration policy

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At a public meeting held in Rimutaka’s Walter Nash Stadium, Labour MP Chris Hipkins publicly disagreed with Labour’s policy of cutting international student visas, when asked by a member of the Migrant and Refugee Rights Campaign. Chris Hipkins is the first Labour MP to publicly disagree with the policy.

“We congratulate Hipkins on taking this stance,” says campaign spokesperson Gayaal Iddamalgoda.

“The more people who stand up against racist policies the better,” continues Gayaal. “That’s how we can create positive change.”

At the same meeting, ACT candidate Grae O’Sullivan disagreed with MARRC’s policy of a Living Wage for migrant workers, while Green candidate Stefan Grand-Meyer endorsed the policy.

The Migrant and Refugee Rights Campaign will be holding a Wellington Central candidates forum on Saturday the 26th of August, 6pm at 19 Tory St.

Labour Party

Labour leadership crisis shows failure of vision

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May Day rally for Migrant/Refugee Rights (photograph by Aaron O’Neill).

Andrew Little’s late resignation from the Labour Party leadership shows a failure of political vision, says Migrant and Refugee Rights Campaign spokesperson Gayaal Iddamalgoda.

“Labour has attempted to drum up support through populist scapegoating,” says Gayaal, “But this tactic has not paid off in the polls.”

“The reality is that Winston Peters has monopolised the anti-migrant vote, nobody does it better than him.”

Gayaal highlights the results of an Ipsos poll which shows that a significant minority (over 40%) accurately view migrants as a net economic benefit. “Left parties should seek to represent New Zealanders who want genuine social-economic change, rather than lazy scapegoating.”

“Blaming migrants is both unprincipled and ineffectual.”

“We must tackle the real challenges including lack of investment in public infrastructure and rank profiteering. Anti-migrant scapegoating distracts from these issues.”

Labour Party

Time for a breather from xenophobic scapegoating

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Photo by Heleyni: Gayaal (second from left) attends an election debate hosted by the VUW Politics Society.

Labour’s call for a ‘breather on immigration’ obscures the real causes of strained infrastructure, says Migrant and Refugee Rights Campaign spokesperson Gayaal Iddamalgoda.

“Labour blames immigration for the strain on infrastructure,” says Gayaal. “But most of Auckland’s population growth is natural increase – meaning people giving birth.”

“Labour proposes cutting student visas, yet students are unlikely to buy houses or use motorways.”

“The housing crisis is a product of profiteering, and congestion is a product of underinvestment in public transport. They have local causes. Neither can be addressed by blocking free movement.”

“A breather from xenophobic scapegoating might help us address the real causes of strained infrastructure.”

Gayaal for Wellington Central, Green Party, Migrant and Refugee Rights, World Refugee Day

World Refugee Day: Economic migrants just as legitimate as refugees

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Today on World Refugee Day, the Greens have released a policy to double the quota twice, with a target of 5,000 refugees. The Migrant and Refugee Rights Campaign (MARRC) welcome this policy, but say that economic migrants must also be welcomed.

“It’s not enough to welcome refugees on one hand, and scapegoat economic migrants on the other,” says trade unionist and Wellington Central candidate Gayaal Iddamalgoda. “We call on the Greens to reject James Shaw’s policy of a 1% on immigration, which was not even democratically decided by the party.”

“Labour’s call to cut 10s of 1000s of immigrants, while increasing the refugee quota, is even worse in giving with one hand and taking with the other.”

Gayaal continues that playing ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ refugees and migrants against each other is a divide and rule tactic. “Divide and rule tactics just aid the race to the bottom; whether dividing ‘local’ and migrant workers, or refugees and migrant workers.”

Along with increasing the quota, MARRC demands full rights for all migrants. “What’s best for migrant workers is best for everyone; high-quality affordable housing, a Living Wage, and the right to organise with other workers for improved conditions. These policies benefit the majority, regardless of origin.”

Mythbusters

Immigration concerns overblown

Dr Arama Rata is a researcher at the National Institute of Demographic and Economic Analysis, and the Māori spokesperson for MARRC (Migrant and Refugee Rights Campaign).

Immigration has skyrocketed in recent years. In a nation faced with inadequate infrastructure, a housing crisis and an impending election, opposition parties have seized the opportunity to make immigration a major election issue. But are our immigration concerns justified, or just another example of growing global xenophobia?  I sought the advice of an immigration expert and here’s what I found out.

Far from our blustery capital, tucked away in a quiet corner of the pristine University of Waikato campus sits a man with a unique set of skills. In a nation gripped by boarder paranoia, one might expect journalists and policy makers alike to be knocking down the door of international immigration expert Professor Jacques Poot at the National Institute of Demographic and Economic Analysis (NIDEA). Yet when I approach his open office door, late one afternoon, I find him alone, lost in his work.

I’m a newly appointed researcher at the institute myself and I’ve arrived, unannounced, to glean insight into immigration and its economic impacts for a project I’m working on.  I’ve been making a living at academic institutions for over a decade and have met my fair share of overworked intellectuals, so I’m pleasantly surprised by the enthusiasm with which I’m greeted. And I soon discover the source of this hospitality – Professor Poot’s lifelong love of population research.

“Well, firstly you have to realize that the rates of net migration we’re experiencing are completely unprecedented” he explains. “I was involved in the statistical modelling of immigration back in the 80s, and the rates we see today far exceed even the most extreme projections any population economist would have made at that time”.

Professor Poot begins to describe the economic factors that came together in perfect unison to create this unforeseen spike in net migration (that’s high immigration, low emigration to us lay folk), and as he does so I imagine the whānau trampoline, alive with mokopuna on Christmas day. There’s the global financial crisis from which New Zealand escaped relatively unscathed (Alex, my inventive 9 year old nephew); China’s shrinking demand for natural resources deflating the Australian economy (Lizzie, my 7 year old courageous niece), a boom in the New Zealand construction industry on the back of the Christchurch rebuild and low interest rates (Daniel, my sociable 6 year old nephew); and a burgeoning, upwardly mobile Chinese middle class wanting to travel the world and educate their kids abroad (Katarina, my strong-willed 2 year old niece). When all these largely independent factors converge for a moment they send New Zealand’s economy (Hinekaukia, my unsuspecting 1 year old daughter) shooting skyward, pulling migrants in tow.

I press Professor Poot on the government policies that have surely contributed to the immigration boom. He shrugs this off. “There’s a lot of variability in immigration year on year. Only five years ago New Zealand had negative net migration because of the movements of New Zealanders, which the government can’t control. But if you follow immigration numbers over a longer period you see an underlying trend for modest growth only.” The stats back up Poot’s point. As this nice graph shows, the migration of New Zealanders (who aren’t controlled by migration policies) cuts a similar shape to the migration of foreigners.

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Net migration was driven up largely by economic factors outside of the government’s control and the same factors will no doubt drive it down again in the near future.  In light of this insight, the immigration cuts proposed by opposition parties in the lead up to the 2017 election seem less like an attempt to pick the lowest hanging political fruit, and more like waiting for the neighbour’s feijoas to fall on the right side of the fence, then selling them at a roadside stall for five bucks a bag.

My conversation with the Professor gets me thinking that a kneejerk crackdown on immigration might not just be unhelpful. It may in fact be harmful. I like to think of this as the ‘Turbo Outrun effect’, after the 1980s car racing game. I still recall following my older brother (like a stray dog) to the spacie parlour to try this game for the first time.  Pumped with adrenalin, fists tight around the steering wheel, I tried desperately to stick to the curves of the track. But the slightest miscalculation triggered a series of ever worsening over-corrections, until my car careered out of control into a spectacular crash.

The same could easily occur with immigration.  Remember, only a few years ago net migration was so low we were desperate to attract migrants to our shores. My Turbo Outrun career was salvaged; I was lucky that my big bro was one of the few teenagers in town whose street cred’ could withstand associating with his little sister at the spacie parlour, so he was there to lay a hand on my shoulder and offer some sage advice: Stay calm, try to anticipate the corners, and make subtle adjustments to get back in control.  I can’t help but wonder how secure our immigration future might be in the hands of an informed, composed driver like Jacques Poot. This could have been the case. While I was racing my Ferrari F40, Professor Poot was involved in a body called the New Zealand Planning Council, which among other things advised the government on population trends, until it lost political favour at the end of the 80s.

And so we have politicians steering our immigration future. Instead of calculated, future focused adjustments, they seem intent on whipping the nation into an uninformed, xenophobic frenzy. Labour announced they would reduce net migration by tens of thousands, but failed to reveal how they would achieve this. Perhaps their hesitancy results from their knowledge of what Professor Poot knows (and you and I now know): that immigration numbers are at an all-time high due largely to external economic factors, and that they will almost certainly fall in the near future as they regress to the more modest average rate (particularly if jobs in Australia start to look attractive again). This fall is likely to occur without Labour, or New Zealand First, or any other party having to do a thing.  But, in an election year, ‘Stay the course! Change the Government!’ is a confused and uninspiring campaign slogan if ever I’ve heard one.

Our immigration policies are not perfect. Professor Poot informs me that the greatest rise in immigration has been among temporary workers; Our policy makers did not expect the great number of people wanting to come to New Zealand on a temporary basis, and many migrants face uncertainty in a system that does not guarantee pathways to permanent residency. I now leave the good Professor. He’s off to his country of birth, the Netherlands, where immigration is even more contentious than it is here. It’s been over three months since their general election on March 15, and the Dutch still don’t have a government because the leading parties can’t agree on immigration. In calculating our own course, we require informed, balanced discussion on immigration in the context of fast growing global mobility, while avoiding the deeply divisive, fear based politicking sweeping much of the Western world. We will know we’ve created a successful immigration system when we are able to provide certainty, dignity and respect to migrants, while balancing the needs of New Zealand Citizens, not when net migration hits a magic number.

Gayaal for Wellington Central

Why Gayaal is standing for Wellington Central

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Gayaal Iddamalgoda is Legal Organiser for FIRST Union, and Wellington Central candidate for the Migrant and Refugee Rights Campaign (Aotearoa/NZ). We interview him on why he’s standing for Wellington Central.

Why do you support migrant/refugee rights?

Because I believe that what is good for refugee and migrants is good for all workers in Aotearoa.  Blaming migrants and refugees for the social and economic problems is a total farce. It protects the wealthy and powerful and deflects blame from the real problem which a system of growing inequality which puts workers of all nationalities and backgrounds at the bottom of the heap. Refugee and migrant workers are at the bottom of the heap, they are workers like everyone else but bosses use their isolation from the rest of the working class to drive down rights and conditions for all workers. We need to unite with migrants and refugees in order to make sure that all workers get the same rights and dignity. We need workers struggle to ensure that all workers have rights and dignity. I support refugee rights for similar reasons, wars caused by greedy imperialists disproportionately affect working people but while the rich are able to travel freely with their money wherever they please, ordinary working people’s movements is not free! Refugee rights is about freedom of movement and the basic right of all people to seek refuge from war and destruction wherever they chose.

How does your whakapapa inform your political perspective?

My family were Sri Lankan migrants. While they were lucky enough not to come here as part of any refugee quota, they did flee war and political strife. Growing up in New Zealand I saw first hand through my parents the deep psychological scars that come with dislocation and war. It gave me a deep sense of human rights and social justice. Migrants like my family are not only hard working, they also have a deep sense of resilience and a strong will to resist injustice. I really do feel that these experiences have been passed down to me and I am grateful for it.

How does your experience as a trade unionist inform your understanding of migrant/refugee rights?

As a trade unionist, I have the honour of being a part of the closest thing we have to a democratic movement. While the trade unions have a long way to go in living up to this potential, I firmly believe in the principle of workers organising together and fighting for political, social and economic power in a system that promotes the interests of a wealthy and greedy elite. I see the power of workers organizing together and I see that the interests of working people are aligned, despite any differences of race, gender, sexuality etc.

I have also had first hand insight into the oppression of migrant workers [many of whom have refugee backgrounds] and have become dismayed by the inability of these workers to access even the most basic protections as workers. Everything seems slated against them, from social prejudice and racism to unfair visa restrictions that tie them to their employers in ways that New Zealand workers are not. Refugee and migrant workers bring a net benefit to the economy and produce wealth and jobs, yet they are scapegoated by their fellow workers and kept down by racist employment and immigration policies.

What do you think of Andrew Little’s recent call to cut immigration by ‘tens of thousands’?

I think it’s appalling coming from a party that claims to represent the interests of ordinary New Zealanders. Instead of pointing the finger at bosses and corporates who increase their wealth and power at the expense of these ‘ordinary people’, Andrew little prefers to play into unfounded xenophobic scapegoating. It is sad that the so called Labour party cannot find the guts to stand up for labour, which includes the thousands of migrants working in New Zealand in near slave like conditions. It is also completely callous that Andrew Little makes this posturing in a time when we face one of the greatest refugee crises of human history.

Andrew Little’s posturing is also really absurd in light of the actual flow of immigrants into the country. It is a unsubstantial comment which seeks to sensationalise beyond any reason the real nature of immigration and make immigrants look like a dark and sinister force. It reminds me of old racist paranoia from the 19th century. It astonishes me that we have not really moved past that.

What do you hope to achieve by standing?

I hope to draw people into debates about refugee and migrant rights. I hope to challenge the causal xenophobia and expose the racist myths that lie under them. I hope to start a conversation among workers, their organisations and their unions about the importance of migrant and refugee rights and I want to make the point: ‘What’s good for migrants/refugees is good for everyone’.