Despite record immigration levels in New Zealand, the number of Pasifika people being allowed in as skilled migrants or to live with immediate family has dropped by 28 per cent since 2012.
Immigration lawyer Richard Small has been working with migrants from the Pacific for more than 20 years and says the heavy impact of tighter policies on the region has increased.
“It has been getting more difficult and progressively so. But that has really accelerated with the changes in the family area. There’s been far more restriction.”
Small said immigration policies do not strike a fair balance between bringing in skilled workers and valuing family relationships.
“There are many hurdles to just do basic things that go to the core of the identity of these families, that they need to be together with their loved ones.
“Now when there’s a clear benefit, we need to have an open mind. We’re not finding that. We’re finding usually a closed door, in fact a locked door.”
Minister of Pacific Peoples Alfred Ngaro said while the impact on Pacific families is significant, they aren’t the only ones affected.
“In the family category we’ve had less approved applications from all countries, not just the Pacific, it’s right across the board. So this is not something that’s a trend for Pacific.”
Immigration New Zealand’s Assistant Manager Geoff Scott agreed.
“I would suspect that those figures would probably be quite consistent across the globe for all areas.”
But figures released to RNZ International under the Official Information Act show that while the number of Pacific applicants approved each year under the Capped Family residence has dropped by 28 percent since 2012, the overall number of applicants approved each year has relatively stayed the same.
It’s a similar fall in the Skilled Migrant category, even though the number of approved applicants each year overall has gone up by nearly 7000 in the last five years.
The Capped Family Residence category allows for the parents or family members of a New Zealand resident to apply for immigration, but the government recently reduced the cap from 11,000 in the 2014/15 and 2015/16 period, to 4000 from 2016 to 2018.
The number of applications for this period has already exceeded the cap, Immigration New Zealand said, and the category has been temporarily closed.
Small said even if tighter policies aren’t explicitly targeting the Pacific, the criteria has clearly had that effect.
He adds that the tightening of immigration policies may be shortsighted and not beneficial in the long run.
“They work towards poverty, they work towards dependence and they don’t acknowledge or allow for that balance of family need, which has always been part of our immigration policy and instructions.”
Figures are expected to decline in the skilled migrant category which introduced a higher points system in November last year.
Of the 956 pacific applicants who were successful last year before the change, only 6 per cent of them would be eligible if they applied now.