NZ: Productivity commission report reveals immigration is both good and bad

“On the one hand…”

Some interesting observations. Canada does not have the same degree of mismatch between temporary and permanent residents given the large number of the more highly skilled (IMP, students) who transition, but with some similar issues in relation to lower skilled:

You can now add our own Productivity Commission’s work to the global pantheon of studies looking at immigration. Like many of its predecessors it seems to conclude immigration can be both slightly good and slightly bad.

The public will have until December 24 to provide feedback on its conclusions and suggestions.

As far as these studies go, the political context around them often matters. The Productivity Commission report was initiated at a time when anti-immigrant sentiment was running high, and is coming out while the Government is trying to encourage skilled migrants to stay.

Institutions like hospitals are chronically understaffed. One Filipino nurse told Stuff recently that the renal ward she works in is more understaffed than any hospital ward she has worked at in the Philippines.

“I was so shocked, I never thought it would be this worse compared to the Philippines to be honest,” she says.

“Even if I’m on my day off my unit will call me, even if I don’t want to pick up the shift.”

Successive reports into immigration have concluded that immigration is either good for productivity, or bad for it, that it has a negative impact on wages, or enables higher wages to be paid, and this report has not come to any strong conclusions either way on most of these issues.

The Productivity Commission also adopts a better late than never approach to the Treaty of Waitangi, saying Māori should be given more of a say on immigration, decades after the country’s most significant waves of immigration have ended.

As it happens, the report notes “overall, New Zealand studies find very minor and mostly positive impacts on the average earnings and employment of local workers”. However, the report covers a much wider range of topics than wage levels.

The commission finds public sentiment is not nearly as negative towards immigration as politicians might suggest. Since 2011 less than 10 per cent of the country has harboured negative attitudes towards migrants, with support predictably lowest amongst New Zealanders “who had no friends born outside New Zealand”.

Australia has had, and is having, a similar debate. The core problem in both countries has been an almost wilful mismatch between the number of temporary migrants and the number of permanent residency places available for them.

The reasons for this have been political. Immigrants make a convenient political scapegoat, but both countries need them. As such, politicians in both Australia and New Zealand have capped permanent residency places while leaving temporary migrant visas (student and work visas) uncapped.

Noel Ballantyne moved to New Zealand in 2018 when his skills as a truck driver were in high demand. After a fruitless fight to become a resident, he has decided to leave.

Frustratingly, for politicians wanting to have it both ways, most people are only willing to up-end their lives and move countries if they think there is a realistic prospect of them being able to settle.

So, in a bid to keep the migration tap flowing Governments have had to be less than up-front with temporary migrants about their prospects of actually being able to live here long-term.

The Productivity Commission’s report, puts it this way: “This broad flexibility appears to have created expectations among some migrants of achieving residence that cannot realistically be met.”

The commission is suggesting the Government publish its intentions for temporary and long-term migration in a Waka Kotahi-esque Government Policy Statement (GPS) to avoid a similar mismatch in future. It would be revised every three years, and the public would also be able to feed into this process.

However, if the aim of the GPS is to avoid large unfair shifts in policy, between governments, it would seem an imperfect mechanism for it. Planning for the immigration GPS would presumably be separate to the infrastructure-planning process.

In the area of transport, the GPS has seen a re-allocation of funding away from roads and towards public transport, which caught the civil contracting industry off-guard. It would be significantly more unfair if the GPS were to cause similarly sudden shifts in the prospects of human beings who moved here in good faith.

The Productivity Commission also wants the Government to de-link visas from employers, which could cause problems when it comes to an incoming Government policy to strengthen the link between employers and migrant workers through an “employer-led” accreditation system.

The commission also wants better prioritisation of people in the “points” queue for residency, and to not let any immigrants through unless there is enough infrastructure for them, which includes people to staff the schools and hospitals needed for all the people we have already let in.

A change in the number of New Zealanders staying here has impacted migration flows.
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A change in the number of New Zealanders staying here has impacted migration flows.

Many of the report’s suggestions would require a massive increase in the size of the immigration bureaucracy. It is unlikely many of these functions could be funded solely through the application fees paid by migrants, as was the case pre-Covid.

Prioritising applications by points filed would mean immigrants would likely file for all the points they are eligible for right from the get-go, making it easier for officers to predict how many people would be eligible for residency if a future Government wanted to cut back on residency places.

Migrants can qualify for residency through a points system where they put an application in if they meet a certain threshold – currently 160 points.

With delays piling up, a lot of migrants decided not to file for the full points they were eligible for, guided by the theory that filing for more points than needed might eat up officer time as they double-checked the authenticity of each claim.

This threw a spanner in the works when it came to Government attempts to reduce the number of people eligible for residency, because even if they increased the number of points required they couldn’t be sure it would reduce the number of people who might be eligible.

As for the report’s conclusions on the larger questions, the problem is immigration often has effects that go in both directions.

Take the report’s headline conclusions on infrastructure: immigrants place strain on housing, but they also enable better economies of scale for other types of infrastructure that would just not be very cost-efficient without large numbers of people using them.

Another problem with the whole immigration versus infrastructure debate was noted in a report from Infrastructure Australia last month: you need immigrants to build infrastructure.

The lucky country’s much-lauded infrastructure pipeline has been thrown into disarray by Covid-19 border restrictions. By mid-2023 Australia will likely be short of people for 105,000 positions needed to keep the pipeline on track: 70,000 engineers, scientists and architects, 15,000 structural and civil trades, and 19,000 project management professionals.

Annual population growth took off after 2012, far ahead of our OECD peers.
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Annual population growth took off after 2012, far ahead of our OECD peers.

Like an earlier Australian Productivity Commission report into immigration, the New Zealand report focuses on the “absorptive capacity” of the economy to accommodate new arrivals, however the report notes this capacity is not fixed.

By OECD standards, a very large population increase took place between 2012 and 2020, caused by something never really forecast in many of the studies referenced in the Productivity Commission report.

In essence two things took place, more migrants came into the country and fewer New Zealanders left. The Productivity Commission says this likely caused the most recent wave of migration to exceed the country’s “absorptive capacity”.

While New Zealand lets in high numbers of migrants by international standards it also has a significant outflow of its own citizens and permanent residents, during normal times they can return at any moment.

The commission suggests restricting the unlimited right of permanent residents to return to the country could smooth out some of these flows.

“The economy could potentially accommodate more people without negative effects on housing or infrastructure if policy changes were made to ease regulatory constraints and increase investment rates … such reforms would have significant wellbeing benefits for New Zealanders and should be pursued regardless of immigration levels.”

New Zealand has a very high proportion of foreign-trained doctors and nurses.
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New Zealand has a very high proportion of foreign-trained doctors and nurses.

Where productivity is concerned the report notes a number of effects. Productivity could cause firms to rely on migrant labour rather than invest in machinery. It could also stimulate non-export industries at the expense of export industries by holding up the exchange rate. However, immigration can also allow productive firms to expand.

The Productivity Commission report wants a better “feedback loop” between education and industry when it comes to skills shortages, but it is unclear whether even this will be enough to plug the gap if migration were to be cut back.

The Filipino nurse who spoke to Stuff is part of this cohort of gap-fillers. The Productivity Commission report points out that, as a percentage of our total healthcare workforce, New Zealand employs the second-highest number of foreign doctors in the OECD, and the highest number of foreign-born nurses.

The nurse wants to be anonymous, for fear it might worsen either her employment or immigration situation, and when she speaks it is clear why she thinks it might.

Her ward is chronically understaffed, filled with migrant nurses who are already overworked and have been caught in different immigration messes from MIQ capacity to residency issues.

“Every night I’m praying, is it really good that I’m here? Is this what I dreamed of before?”

Source: Productivity commission report reveals immigration is both good and bad

New Zealand: Tertiary institutions given 10 years to end minority pass rate disparity

Of note (and the difficulty of change):

It’s the third time in the past decade the commission has set a deadline for achieving parity.

In 2012 the commission wanted to eradicate disparities in polytechnics by 2015 and in universities by 2018. But that didn’t happen. In 2018-19 the commission aimed to achieve parity within five years and fined institutions that failed to improve. But it quietly dropped that deadline and last year introduced the 10-year target.

Tertiary Education Commission deputy chief executive, Learner Success Ōritetanga Directorate, Paora Ammunson, said past attempts at tackling the disparities had failed because they were based on isolated interventions.

“One of the frustrations I guess is that our approach to equity has tended to be really well-intentioned but quite bespoke and disconnected piecemeal interventions and we’re at a stage in the TEC now where we realise that’s not going to close the gap, that’s not going to serve the learners well that we want to succeed,” he said.

Ammunson said the commission had been trialling a different approach requiring large-scale whole-of-institution changes.

“The solution is going to be about a whole-of-ecosystem approach in those institutions towards tackling the problem of attrition, really taking a holistic approach to that. Using your data intelligence, using your guidance systems, making sure that your leaders are setting the direction, making sure you’re doing it in partnership with the community groups and organisations that are important in your context,” he said.

He said the commission was confident its approach would work.

“We’ve been testing this model with tertiary partners. It will require us to work with them and it will require us to have sometimes hard conversations about parts of their delivery that aren’t achieving what they and the TEC would be expecting.”

Last year universities had a qualification completion rate of 52 percent and course completion rate of 82 percent for Māori students. For Pacific students the figures were 48 and 75 percent, while for non-Māori and non-Pacific students the figures were 66 and 90 percent.

In polytechnics Māori students had a 48 percent qualification completion rate and 70 percent course completion rate. For Pacific students the rates were 46 and 71 percent, and for non-Māori and non-Pacific students the figures were 57 and 84 percent.

The Tauira Pasifika National President of the Union of Students’ Associations, Jaistone Finau, said the time was right to tackle the disparities.

He said tertiary institutions were taking student wellbeing more seriously and were also moving to introduce a new code for pastoral care.

Finau said institutions should treat students as partners and use their insights to improve completion and retention rates.

Te Mana Akonga tumukai takirua (co-president of the Māori students’ association), Nkhaya Paulsen-More, said universities had not been doing enough to help Māori students achieve.

“University strategies seem to be aligning with Tiriti-led policies but on the ground we’re still getting complaints from students that they don’t see much of a change,” she said.

“Things like ‘my lecturer doesn’t understand me because I’m Māori and they don’t respect the fact that I’m not the person to go to automatically if they don’t understand anything that’s Māori’, so being referred to as the cultural trainer in formal settings or utilising their knowledge without reimbursing them for that knowledge.”

The organisation’s other tumuaki takirua, Renāta White, said if the commission used financial penalties against institutions that failed to make progress, it should require the institutions to spend the money on improvements.

“I would rather the funds go back into supporting the students. So if there is a fine they are fined needing to employ maybe more support and mental health or more support and peer mentorship rather than the funds going back to government,” he said.

Huhāna Wātene from the Tertiary Education Union said universities and polytechnics could make a big difference for Māori students by hiring more Māori academics and tutors.

She said students also needed more culturally-appropriate support.

“In institutes whether it be in schools, polytechnics, kohanga, kura, it’s the services that are wrapped round them [students] that really assist and allow them to flourish. If you put any students, not just Māori and Pasifika, in that kind of environment they can’t do anything but do well,” she said.

“We know for a fact that Māori students do exceedingly well when they have that support services around them or people who value and appreciate their cultural aspirations and the tikanga.”

Wātene said the commission should use incentives rather than penalties to encourage change.

Source: https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/453303/tertiary-institutions-given-10-years-to-end-minority-pass-rate-disparity

New Zealand: Citizenship approval delays expected to ease mid-2022

Another country with processing delays:

The introduction of an online system and Covid-19 restrictions are being blamed for waiting times of up to a year – despite applicant numbers falling last year.

Government figures show 94,000 people have applied for citizenship since 2019, but only 64,000 have been approved. That includes citizenship granted to immigrants after at least five years of residence, and citizenship by descent, for overseas-born children of New Zealanders.

Citizenship by grant now takes 10-11 months to be looked at by a case officer and another one to two months to be decided after that. Citizenship ceremonies add another two or three months to the process, although they are suspended during the current outbreak.

Internal Affairs said it was focused on speeding up the process and it expected to reduce the backlog by the middle of next year.

It has taken on new staff and retrained employees who would usually issue passports.

So far this year, 26,000 people have applied for citizenship, and 11,700 were approved.

Case officers were first picking up a citizenship application five months after it was submitted, compared to a fortnight two years ago.

Internal Affairs said in a statement it understood delays in citizenship decisions impacted people.

“We have prioritised this backlog and created a specific programme of work to improve it,” said its general manager of service and access, Julia Wootton. “This includes more training, investing in technology changes to speed things up, establishing a temporary workforce dedicated to working though people’s applications.

“We are confident that the steps we have taken mean we will have the skills and processes in place early next year to ensure we can slow the backlog and begin to reduce it by mid next year.”

Staff were working hard to get back to much shorter timeframes after disruption caused by a ‘realignment’ of the department’s life and identity services in 2019, she said.

“There has been an increase in processing times for citizenship applications over the past 12-24 months as we move to a new citizenship processing system that incrementally improves citizenship services and is being built and introduced in stages. Until that is fully in place we are working in both the old system and the new. This system moves us from a manual paper-based system to an online system.

“Covid-19 lockdowns have affected our ability to deliver these services. Our citizenship system, which holds highly secure and privacy protected data about individuals and their families, is only accessed from our security-controlled offices. Citizenship is not considered an essential service so while the country or various regions are at alert level 4 or 3, we have limited staff on site delivering essential services only.”

Thirty new staff since July last year included 11 full-time employees and staff who could process passport or citizenship applications depending on demand. More staff were being added this month, Wootton said.

“A team of temporary staff has been brought on to process the approximately 9,000 cases that remain in our old system, freeing up existing staff to increase proficiency and speed in using the new system,” she said. “The new system gives us better data on applications, and enables us to adopt new ways of processing, including automating some assessments. We will soon roll out a feature which enables applications to be routed to appropriately skilled officers, depending on their complexity. These and other changes based on analysis of application trends will help us process more quickly.”

How many people applied for citizenship

  • 2019 – 35,274
  • 2020 – 32,030
  • 1/01/2021 – 22/09/2021 – 26,673
  • Total 93977

How many people had their citizenship approved

  • 2019 – 31,710
  • 2020 – 20,488
  • 1/01/2021 – 22/09/2021 – 11,719
  • Total 63917

Source: Citizenship approval delays expected to ease mid-2022

In Indigenous Knowledge, Innovative Solutions

Some interesting examples:

Nearly two decades ago, when the New Zealand highway authority was planning the Waikato Expressway, people from the Māori tribe Ngāti Naho objected. The highway would encroach on an area that, in Māori tradition, was governed by a water-dwelling creature, a taniwha.

The authorities took those concerns into account and rerouted the road to circumvent the area in question. As a result, a year later, when the area was hit by a major flood, the road was unharmed.

“I’m still waiting for the headline, ‘Mythical Creature Saves the Taxpayer Millions,’” said Dan Hikuroa, a senior lecturer in Māori studies at the University of Auckland and member of the Ngāti Maniapoto tribe. He has often wondered if, once the flood hit, the technical team later said, “Why didn’t you just say it’s a flood risk area?”

Like many Indigenous peoples around the world, the Māori have developed their understanding of their environment through close observation of the landscape and its behaviors over the course of many generations. Now the New Zealand Environmental Protection Agency regularly looks for ways to integrate traditional Māori knowledge, or mātauranga, into its decision-making. Mr. Hikuroa has been appointed the culture commissioner for UNESCO New Zealand, a role he said is centered on integrating Māori knowledge into UNESCO’s work.

Western-trained researchers and governments are increasingly recognizing the wealth of knowledge that Indigenous communities have amassed to coexist with and protect their environments over hundreds or even thousands of years. Peer-reviewed scientific journals have published studies demonstrating that around the world, Indigenous-managed lands have far more biodiversity intact than other lands, even those set aside for conservation.

Embracing Indigenous knowledge, as New Zealand is trying to do, can improve how federal governments manage ecosystems and natural resources. It can also deepen Western scientists’ understanding of their own research, potentially, by providing alternative perspectives and approaches to understanding their field of work. This is ever more urgent, particularly as the climate crisis unfolds. “It is Indigenous resilience and worldview that every government, country and community can learn from, so that we manage our lands, waters and resources not just across budget years, but across generations,” U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, a citizen of the Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico and America’s first Native American cabinet secretary, said in remarks to the United Nations.

Indigenous scholars warn, though, that while traditional knowledge can be used to benefit the world, it can also be mishandled or exploited. Dominique David Chavez, a descendant of the Arawak Taíno in the Caribbean, and a research fellow at the Native Nations Institute at the University of Arizona and the National Science Foundation, says that, as Western scientists, “we are trained to go into communities, get that knowledge and go back to our institutions and disseminate it in academic journals.” That can be disruptive to traditional knowledge sharing, from one generation to another, she says, which should be the priority — ensuring that Indigenous knowledge systems are preserved in and supportive of the communities that developed them. In Puerto Rico, known by its Indigenous people as Borikén, Ms. Chavez is studying ways to restore the connections and traditional knowledge transmission patterns between elders and youth.

Bridging Indigenous and Western science also means respecting the ecosystem of values in which the knowledge systems are embedded. For instance, the practice of planting a diversity of crops and building healthy soil for water retention — today known as “regenerative agriculture” — has existed in Indigenous communities around the world throughout history. Yet the growing push to adopt regenerative agriculture practices elsewhere is often selective, using industrial pesticides, for example, or leaving out the well-being of people who farm the land.

“In Indigenous sciences, it’s not possible to separate the knowledge from the ethics of the responsibility for that knowledge — whereas in Western science, we do that all the time,” said Robin Wall Kimmerer, the director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment at the State University of New York in Syracuse and an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation. The scientific method is designed to be indifferent to morals or values, she adds. “Indigenous knowledge puts them back in.”

Ideally, the shared use of Indigenous knowledge can help mend broken relationships between Indigenous and Western communities.

In upstate New York, Ms. Kimmerer points to sweetgrass, a native plant used for traditional basketry. She was approached by a tribe concerned about the decline of the plant and looking for a solution.

Government regulations had already restricted its harvest. “One thing people often think about is, is it being overharvested?” Ms. Kimmerer said. She helped to conduct studies that ultimately showed that harvesting sweetgrass, following Indigenous protocols, is the very thing that will help it to thrive. “If you just leave it alone, it starts to decline.”

For her, that speaks to a core flaw in Western approaches to land management: the belief that human interaction is necessarily harmful to ecosystems. “That’s one of the reasons Native people were systematically removed from what are today’s national parks, because of this idea that people and nature can’t coexist in a good way.” But Indigenous knowledge, Ms. Kimmerer said, is really all about, ‘Oh yes we can, and we cultivate practices for how that is possible,’” she said.

While combating wildfires last year, Australian authorities turned to Aboriginal practices. While researchers have connected the severity of the fires to climate change, Ms. Kimmerer added that how Australia’s land has been managed in the modern era may have also played a role. Aboriginal people had “been managing that land in a fire landscape for millenniums, ” she said. “The fact that Indigenous science has been ignored is a contributing factor to the fires there.”

As the world increasingly recognizes the accomplishments of many Indigenous communities that successfully coexist with ecosystems, there is much for Western society to learn.

“We have this notion that Western science is the pathway to truth. We don’t really even entertain the possibility that it could come from somewhere else,” said Ms. Kimmerer. “Resource managers, land managers need to understand that there are multiple ways of knowing.”

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/10/opinion/indigenous-maori-new-zealand-environment.html

New Zealand apologizes for 1970s raids on Pacific people

Of note, reflecting similar experiences of Indigenous peoples and others in many countries:

Aupito William Sio recalled the terrifying day during his childhood when police officers holding German shepherd dogs turned up at his family home before dawn and shined flashlights into their faces while his father stood there helpless.

Now the minister for Pacific peoples, Sio and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Monday the government would formally apologize for an infamous part of the nation’s history known as the Dawn Raids.

It’s when Pacific Island people were targeted for deportation in the mid-1970s during aggressive home raids by authorities to find, convict and deport overstayers. The raids often took place very early in the morning or late at night.

Sio became emotional as he and Ardern discussed the apology at a news conference.

“We felt as a community that we were invited to come to New Zealand. We responded to the call to fill the labor workforce that was needed, in the same way we responded to the call for soldiers in 1914,” Sio said.

But he said the government then turned on the Pasifika community when it felt those workers were no longer needed.

Ardern said that at the time, people who didn’t look like white New Zealanders were told they should carry identification to prove they weren’t overstayers, and were often randomly stopped in the street, or even at schools or churches. She said Pacific people were often dragged before the courts in their pajamas and without proper representation.

“Not only were they targeted, they were targeted using a process and a practice that was really dehumanizing, that really terrorized people in their homes,” Ardern said.

She said that when computerized immigration records were introduced in 1977, they showed that 40% of overstayers were either British or American, groups that were never targeted for deportation.

“The raids, and what they represented, created deep wounds,” Ardern said. “And while we cannot change our history, we can acknowledge it, and we can seek to right a wrong.”

In Sio’s case, he said his family were legal residents who owned the home but a couple of his father’s nephews from Samoa were staying with them and were taken away by the police without their clothes or belongings, and later deported.

He said the nephews had been working at a factory and their visas had expired. He said they had been preparing to go home and wanted to do a few more overtime shifts before they left. Sio said his father helped advocate for them to get back their clothes and money so they could leave New Zealand with some measure of their dignity intact.

The formal apology will be held at a commemoration event on June 26 in Auckland. The apology doesn’t come with any financial compensation or legal changes, but Sio believes it is an important first step. He said the trauma is still fresh for many and it’s good to address the issue and prevent such a situation happening in the future.

Ardern said it’s just the third time the government has made such an apology.

The previous apologies were for imposing a entry tax on Chinese immigrants in the 1880s and for introducing the deadly influenza pandemic to Samoa in 1918, which killed more than one-fifth of the population.

Source: New Zealand apologizes for 1970s raids on Pacific people

Immigration New Zealand hires 100 as Beijing office shuts

Part of other office closures (Mumbai, Manila and Pretoria) given reduced volumes, with more “anchoring” of visa processing and “strengthening our risk and verification”.

INZ shed more than 300 jobs overseas as it shut branches in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, but recruitment had been on hold due to financial constraints.

It today announced its Beijing visa processing office would shut by the end of July, joining closures in Mumbai, Manila and Pretoria earlier this year.

Before Covid-19 struck, the Beijing office decided half of all New Zealand’s temporary visas.

One overseas visa processing office will remain – in Samoa – when the branch in China closes, although risk and verification staff will continue to work in other offshore locations.

“This is a continuation of INZ’s adaptation to the impact of Covid-19,” a spokesperson said.

“INZ is taking this opportunity to reduce costs, introduce advanced technology to improve efficiency, manage offshore risk more effectively and move visa processing activities onshore.”

Some of the newly recruited staff in New Zealand are understood to have been taken on to process residence applications.

The government asked for 50,000 to 60,000 new residents to be approved in the last 18 months under the residence programme (NZRP).

The NZRP is the framework for granting residence to skilled, family and humanitarian migrants. With one month left before the NZRP expires, it is 3500 away from the lowest end of that range.

In a statement, INZ said that from January 2020 to last month it had approved 46,562 people for residence.

“INZ continues to ensure that resourcing for the processing of skilled residence applications remains in line with the levels agreed to under the previous NZRP, as agreed with the previous Minister of Immigration,” INZ border and visa operations general manager Nicola Hogg said.

“Skilled residence applications are processed in INZ’s Manukau office. As at 21 May 2021, 85 immigration officers are responsible for processing skilled residence applications. Residence applications take time to process given how much there is at stake and the level of scrutiny required for each application.

“Recruitment throughout Immigration New Zealand’s onshore visa processing network is under way, with 100 vacancies recently being filled. This recruitment will allow INZ to increase its onshore visa processing capacity.”

The government is reviewing how it will draw up residence targets in future, alongside policy work on the skilled migrant category.

Among skilled migrant residence visas, the number of residents decided last month fell to 658, down from a high of 1925 in November. Rejection rates increased from 7 percent to 21 percent over the same period.

A quarter of applicants have been waiting two years for a decision.

For the past two months since March 2021, INZ has been working on applications made in August 2019.

Source: Immigration New Zealand hires 100 as Beijing office shuts

NZ: Covid 19 coronavirus: Government targets rich investors as part of its ‘reset’ of immigration settings

Of note. Similar shift to “two-step” immigration and focus on the more highly skilled. Not convinced by the focus on “rich investors” as the experience with these programs is decidedly mixed:

Wealthy investors and “highly-skilled workers” will be the targets of New Zealand’s Covid-19 immigration “reset” to reduce the economy’s reliance on low-wage migrants.

In a speech setting out the Government’s intentions for immigration policy, Economic Development Minister Stuart Nash said that would include making it harder for employers to take on workers from overseas, other than in areas of genuine skills shortages.

But for many in the audience, including economists and employers, the long-signalled announcement lacked much detail, some labelling it “confusing”.

Nash, who was filling in for Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi, said once the borders fully opened again, it would not be returning to previous immigration settings.

“That path is a continuation of pressures on our infrastructure, like transport, accommodation, and downward pressure on wages.

“Since the borders closed, we’ve seen a reversal in the horticulture sector – for example – where there’s been a lift in wages to bring in local workers.”

Source: Covid 19 coronavirus: Government targets rich investors as part of its ‘reset’ of immigration settings

How Australia stripped alleged Isis fighter of citizenship without evaluating her case

Complete lack of due process:

New Zealand authorities are still refusing to comment publicly on the likely deportation from Turkey of Suhayra Aden, the former Australian-New Zealand dual citizen alleged by Turkish authorities to be an Islamic State terrorist.

But according to one report, it is likely New Zealand officials will eventually escort her from Turkey, along with her two children, aged two and five.

Aden was arrested in mid-February trying to enter Turkey from Syria. Her detention triggered a diplomatic row when it emerged that Australia had stripped the 26-year-old of her Australian citizenship, leaving New Zealand to deal with her predicament.

Born in New Zealand but having lived in Australia since she was six, Aden travelled to Syria on an Australian passport in 2014. Alleged to be involved with Isis, her Australian passport was cancelled in 2020. The timing of her actual loss of citizenship is less clear.

Media coverage has largely centred on New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern’s accusation that, in stripping Aden of her citizenship, Australia has “abdicated its responsibilities”.

Ardern was right. But what has been less well covered is how the Australian government disabled itself from making a decision – let alone an informed one – on that loss of citizenship.

Aden lost her citizenship automatically under a now-repealed law. That law deprived her of her citizenship without any Australian official evaluating her circumstances.

An automatic rule

Introduced under Tony Abbott’s prime ministership, the powers of citizenship deprivation were enacted in December 2015, early in the Malcolm Turnbull government. Automatic loss of Australian citizenship could occur if:

  • The person was aged over 14
  • They would not be rendered stateless (Aden’s New Zealand co-citizenship ensured this)
  • They had either fought for a declared terrorist organisation or engaged in “disallegient” conduct (defined with reference to various terrorist offences, though not incorporating key elements of those offences)

A person lost their Australian citizenship the instant the statutory conditions were met, irrespective of any official knowing this had occurred. Of course, officials could only act when they found out the relevant conditions had been met – but that might be years later, if ever.

Source: How Australia stripped alleged Isis fighter of citizenship without evaluating her case

ICYMI: Revoking citizenship just global NIMBYism

Good commentary:

Last week, news broke that New Zealand-born woman Suhayra Aden had been detained with her surviving two children (aged five and two) near the Syrian border by Turkish authorities, who labelled her an Islamic State terrorist. She now faces the prospect of being deported to New Zealand – despite having not lived in New Zealand since childhood, and despite her family residing in Australia. Just how did this happen?

Aden left New Zealand aged six to live in Australia, and she eventually became an Australian citizen. In 2014, she reportedly travelled on her Australian passport to join the Islamic State. She was known to both Australian and New Zealand authorities, and the question of which country ought to be responsible in the event of her capture had been discussed by Prime Ministers Jacinda Ardern and Scott Morrison.

However, Ardern was subsequently informed that Australia had revoked Aden’s citizenship, leading to the prospect of Aden’s deportation to New Zealand. Ardern expressed her disappointment, stating that she was “tired of having Australia export its problems”. Morrison responded that he was simply putting Australia’s national security first and that Aden’s citizenship had been automatically revoked under Australian law.

Underlying this diplomatic stoush is the phenomenon of citizenship deprivation for counterterrorism purposes, which some states have employed to bar the return of so-called foreign terrorist fighters – in essence, individuals who travel overseas to participate in an armed conflict with a terrorist group. In this case, by stripping Aden of her citizenship, Australia makes her New Zealand’s problem (since she is no longer legally entitled to return to Australia), while avoiding the international law prohibition on rendering people stateless (since she still has New Zealand citizenship).

Two provisions of the Australian Citizenship Act that were in force between December 2015 and September 2020 automatically revoked the citizenship of dual citizens aged 14 years or over if they engaged in various terrorism-related activities, served in the armed forces of a country at war with Australia, or fought for, or were in the service of, a declared terrorist organisation. These provisions operated automatically; no actual decision was needed to revoke citizenship. As soon as the person engaged in the specified conduct, the revocation occurred – as if by magic. In contrast, further action, such as the cancellation of a passport, requires official action.

From the standpoint of administrative fairness and accountability, these automatic provisions are deeply problematic. The practical obstacles to challenging the revocation of citizenship are daunting – not least because there was no ministerial decision to challenge, but also because notice that revocation had occurred could be lawfully delayed for several years. These provisions are also problematic from the standpoint of legal certainty. Since these provisions did not depend on any Australian official even being aware of the conduct triggering the loss of citizenship, it can be unclear who had actually had their citizenship revoked and when.

Take Aden’s case as an example. She reportedly travelled to Syria in 2014. But beyond her having three children to two Swedish men (both deceased), little is known about what she did there. If (as I think most likely) Aden’s citizenship was revoked because she was in the service of a declared terrorist organisation, she would have lost her Australian citizenship on or after May 6, 2016, the date the declaration that Islamic State was a terrorist organisation became effective. (As an aside, if the foregoing analysis is correct, Aden’s eldest child, reportedly aged five, would remain an Australian citizen by descent.)

The leader of the opposition, Judith Collins, suggested the Government has been outmanoeuvred by the Australian government and should have revoked Aden’s citizenship first. However, the only New Zealand legal provision that might have applied to Aden requires that she voluntarily acquired the citizenship of another country and acted in a manner contrary to the interests of New Zealand. She must also have done these things “while a New Zealand citizen and while of or over the age of 18 years and of full capacity”. So in order for this provision to be applicable, Aden would have had to have acquired Australian citizenship only as an adult. Moreover, deprivation of citizenship requires a ministerial decision that is rightly subject to judicial scrutiny. Set against the Australian provisions that automatically revoke citizenship at the point in time specified conduct occurs, there was never much prospect of New Zealand winning this race to the bottom.

Dual citizenship offered Australia an easy out in Aden’s case; the law automatically revoking her citizenship conveniently obfuscated responsibility (the Australian government has, unsurprisingly, not drawn attention to its power to exempt a person from losing citizenship under these provisions). But Aden is just one instance of a broader phenomenon. The Syrian civil war attracted tens of thousands of foreigners, among them women. There are thousands of women, often with children, who find themselves in a similar situation to Aden. In the end, citizenship deprivation is a form of legalised NIMBYism with dual citizens as objects, and as such, is neither a sustainable nor internationally responsible way of addressing the problem.

Source: Revoking citizenship just global NIMBYism

New Zealand, Australia in rare row over Islamic State militant

Right call. UK did the same with Jack Letts (Jihadi Jack) when it revoked his UK citizenship given that he had Canadian citizenship by virtue of his father even if he had never lived in Canada:
 
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Tuesday accused Australia of shirking its responsibility for a dual national arrested in Turkey over reported links with Islamic State.

In an unusually blunt message to her counterpart Scott Morrison, Ardern said Canberra was “wrong” to expect Wellington to accept the woman, who she said had strong ties to Australia.

“Any fair minded person would consider this person an Australian and that is my view too,” Ardern said in a statement. “We believe Australia has abdicated its responsibilities.”

The 26-year-old woman was reportedly arrested with her two children this week while trying to illegally enter Turkey’s southern province of Hatay, bordering war-torn Syria, and identified as a member of Isis.
Ardern said the woman had been a dual Australian-New Zealand citizen until authorities in Canberra cancelled her passport, making her Wellington’s responsibility.
 
“It is wrong that New Zealand should shoulder the responsibility for a situation involving a woman who has not lived in New Zealand since she was six,” she said.

“[The woman] has resided in Australia since that time, has her family in Australia and left for Syria from Australia on her Australian passport.

“New Zealand, frankly, is tired of having Australia exporting its problems,” Ardern said. “If the shoe were on the other foot, we would take responsibility. That would be the right thing to do and I ask Australia to do the same.”

Morrison defended his government’s decision as in “Australia’s national security interests”.

“We do not want to see terrorists who fought with terrorism organisations enjoying privileges of citizenship, which I think they forfeit the second they engage as an enemy of our country,” he said during a press conference in Canberra.

But Morrison added that he would speak with Ardern further, saying: “There is still a lot more unknown about this case and where it sits and where it may go to next.”

Ardern also urged Australia to consider the welfare of the woman’s children.

“These children were born in a conflict zone through no fault of their own,” she said. “Coming to New Zealand, where they have no immediate family, would not be in their best interests. We know that young children thrive best when surrounded by people who love them.”

Ardern said her government has an obligation to its citizens regardless of the circumstances or offences committed, and was also engaging with Turkish authorities over the issue.

New Zealand has previously criticised Australia for deporting people across the Tasman Sea who have tenuous ties to the country.

Since 2014, around 3,000 New Zealanders in Australia have had their visas cancelled “on character grounds” – which does not always require a criminal conviction.

Ardern has pointed out many of those being deported have lived most of their lives in Australia and described the issue as “corrosive” to the relationship between the neighbouring nations.

The woman’s case has been known to Australian and New Zealand authorities for some time. Ardern said she told Morrison the decision to strip the woman of her citizenship was wrong.

“I never believed the right response was to simply have a race to revoke people’s citizenships … they did not act in good faith,” she said.

Source: New Zealand, Australia in rare row over Islamic State militant