The New Zealand authorities have initiated an extensive investigation into the reported incident involving the exploitation of 115 individuals from India and Bangladesh.
These individuals had come to the country with the assurance of employment, which did not come to fruition.
These individuals were placed in accommodations that were inadequate for accommodating such a large number of people.
According to a press release by New Zealand Immigration, the living conditions in these accommodations were characterised as “unhygienic, unsanitary, and unsuitable”.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has commenced an “in-depth and comprehensive investigation” into the case, it said last week.
“Our investigators have spoken with 115 Indian and Bangladeshi nationals who arrived in New Zealand on Accredited Employment Work Visas (AEWV) with the promise of employment when they arrived. Individuals have indicated they paid a substantial amount for the visa and a job, yet most are still waiting for any paid work,” the immigration authority said.
Despite paying significant sums of money, ranging from USD 15,000 to USD 40,000, to various agents for their visas and related jobs, most of these workers were not provided with any paid employment, news portal rnz.co.nz reported.
The Accredited Employer Work Visa (AEWV) is a temporary work visa category.
Some individuals have been in New Zealand for several months and some have more recently arrived. The Indian High Commission has been engaged to provide support to their nationals, the immigration authority said.
The Indian High Commission in a tweet on Friday last week said, “As soon as we were informed regarding Indian workers in distress in Auckland, we reached out to support them. Food & Consular services provided to the workers. We are in touch with all concerned. We are committed to the welfare of the Indian community in NZ.”
According to a report in The New Zealand Herald newspaper, the Accredited Employer Work Visa scheme already has 164 active investigations after complaints of worker exploitation and breaches.
The scheme, established in July last year, has approved nearly 81,000 visas among about 27,900 accredited employers. It was meant to counter exploitation by ensuring employers were viable and treated their employees fairly, with pre- and post-accreditation checks, it said.
Immigration Minister Andrew Little has ordered an urgent independent review of how the scheme is being operated after “serious concerns” were raised by a whistleblower on Tuesday last week that checks of potential accredited employers were not being carried out, the report said.