We need talent, not beneficiaries

The National Government has announced a major change in its immigration policy, shifting the family category from one of mass to that of class. New Zealand citizens and permanent residents would henceforth be able to sponsor their parents, siblings and children living abroad only if they meet certain minimum requirements, which are asset based.

Gone are the days when people used to bring members of their families living abroad without even considering their financial affordability. Many parents and siblings are known to have gone on the dole, draining not only the taxpayer-funded national exchequer but also subjecting their elders to abuse.

Many migrants erroneously believe that it is their right to bring their families to live in New Zealand.

They are wrong.

Migration is a privilege, not a right.

The Government is determined to ensure that migrants and their families arriving in New Zealand are able to contribute to the economy and remain economically independent. A number of measures have been taken to address issues relating to immigration. Some of these include the number of skilled migrant workers allowed in a year, raising the qualifications for foreign students, rules that would make it harder for immigrants to import their families.

An important step, successive immigration ministers have always said, is breaking the link between temporary migration for work and permanent residence.

That shoe has now dropped.

Segregation of migrants on the basis of their income (Tier One and Tier Two) to sponsor their parents and adult children living overseas may appear discriminatory but it makes economic sense. What is the point in those leading hand-to-mouth existence bringing their parents? This is neither a cultural issue nor an emotional one. We certainly need families but not at the expense of our financial ability.

Immigration New Zealand wants to be more selective about who can settle in the country, reserving this important right only for the brightest and best.

As per the British experience, under that government’s current rules those in less-skilled and worse-paid jobs (nurses, care workers, cooks) were more likely to settle at the first opportunity than those in better-paid or graduate-level jobs.

But there is a puzzling lack of logic here. Though many countries admit migrant workers only temporarily, overt guest-worker policies like West Germany’s in the 1970s and 1980s were not a roaring success, tending to hamper integration and foster resentment.

The dynamics of immigration depends on the ability of the Government and the administrative machinery to adapt to changes and requirements of the economy.

Immigration is an issue that will never disappear from a journalist’s monitor screen.

Some readers and critics often chide us for harping on immigration “as though there was nothing else to write about.”

We make no apology for raising the issue from time to time.

For, New Zealand, US, Australia and Canada, would continue to depend on immigrants to remain as progressive and developed nations.

Far from being xenophobic, we would like to see orderliness and a well-defined policy in place and more important, teams of officials who are able to discern the good from the not so good and bring in people who would contribute to our progress and development.

But the functioning of the immigration department has in recent years been a cause for concern to us, and privately to many ministers and government protagonists as well.

It is therefore natural that immigration policies and practices have come under attack in recent years, both in newspaper columns and on the public domain.

Migrants bring skills, trade and links to export markets, investment, ideas and cultural diversity to this country. They are critical to economic growth, those with skills are sought all over the world, and we must compete to attract and retain them.

And we need talent, not those who queue up at the offices of Work and Income to become beneficiaries at our expense.

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