Cabinet Ministers knew visa changes could increase family violence

Damning evidence released today shows that Cabinet was warned about an increase in the risk of domestic violence as a result of changes to the working rights of partners of temporary visa holders.

“The Green Party urges the Labour Government to scrap the planned removal of working rights for most partners of temporary visa holders to prevent harm being done to our communities,” says Green Party’s spokesperson for immigration, Ricardo Menéndez March. 

The Education and Workforce Committee’s Inquiry into Migrant Exploitation was tabled in Parliament today. The report shows that the Government pushed through changes to the rights of partnership work visas despite concerns flagged at Cabinet and by MBIE officials that it would result in an increase in family violence and exploitation. 

“A Cabinet paper on the Government’s big immigration reset warned Ministers that the “lack of open work rights for partners of migrant workers after family violence incidents may mean that fewer partners are empowered to leave abusive relationships, especially because of a lack of economic independence”. And yet, Cabinet pressed ahead. 

“It is a lot harder for migrant families to survive on one income. Forcing migrants into being financially dependent on their partner will create power dynamics that can result in abuse, family violence, hardship and push people into exploitative arrangements in order to make ends meet. 

“This is particularly problematic since partners of temporary visa holders can’t even access the Victims of Family Violence Work Visa. Cabinet Ministers knew this would be a problem but decided to go ahead anyway. 

“If the Government wants to create a high-wage economy they should be focusing on lifting wages across the board, instead of limiting the working rights of migrant families. 

“Addressing the poor access to the Victims of Family Violence Work Visa should be happening anyway, and it should not be in response to policy changes that increase the risk of family violence. My colleague Jan Logie has a bill to ensure that victims of family violence are better supported and we urge Minister Wood to pick this up as a Government bill.

“The Greens are urging the Government to reverse this policy, restore the open work rights of partners of temporary work visa holders and instead focus on lifting wages of workers at every opportunity

“The Green Party has been at forefront of progress to ensure Aotearoa New Zealand is a place where everyone, no matter who they are or where they are from, can live a life free of family violence. 

“As part of the Government, my colleague and Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson has published Aotrearoa New Zealand’s first ever National Strategy to Eliminate Family Violence and Sexual Violence, Te Aorerekura. 

“Ministers right across government will have a role to play in implementing this strategy, including the Immigration Minister, Michael Wood. Scrapping the planned removal of working rights for most partners of temporary visa holders as well as adopting Jan Logie’s member’s bill would be a great start,” says Ricardo Menéndez March. 

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