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11 November 2022

Opposition leader questions immigration process

Wednesday 21 February 2024 | Written by Losirene Lacanivalu | Published in National, Parliament

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Opposition leader questions immigration process
Opposition Leader Tina Browne. Photo: LOSIRENE LACANIVALU / 24021953 / 24021951

Opposition Leader Tina Browne has raised questions on what the government was doing to protect the main employers of foreign workers.

Speaking in Parliament on Monday, Browne referred to a letter to the Cook Islands News editor on Ministry of Immigration regulations in relation to secondary employment, questions initially raised by the letter writer and business woman Ellena Tavioni.

In the letter, Tavioni asked about the responsibility of secondary employers, the policies on paying income tax and contributions of primary employers.

Browne said Tavioni was not complaining about the workers, but about other employers that were cherry picking and taking advantage of workers.

She said the reason why she (Tavioni) was complaining was because the onus is on the main employer to look after and to pay for all expenses of foreign workers.

Talking about her own experience, Brown said went to the Immigration office about a week ago to pay the yearly amount for a two year contract.

She said she was then advised by the immigration officer to change the terms of the contract between the employer and the employee.

She asked the Minister for Immigration Tingika Elikana two questions: “What are we doing to protect our local main employer of foreign workers? What authority does the immigration officer have to make an employer and employee amend their contractual relationship?”

Acknowledging the question, Elikana said the question raised a lot of important issues and some legal matters that needed to be addressed.

He asked that he be given time to talk with the responsible staff and get to the bottom of the issue.

“Like the Leader of Opposition highlighted, there is a need to clearly articulate and identify the responsibilities of the primary employer and that of the secondary employer so that we ensure the rights of the employers are protected and the rights of employees are recognised and protected.”

Meanwhile, the Cook Islands Immigration Amendment Bill 2024 was also passed in parliament.

Elikana acknowledged Opposition MPs for supporting the Bill saying they gave it serious consideration and recognised the need and importance of the Bill to go through parliament.

He said the purpose of the Bill is to enable Crown Law through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration (MFAI) to recover from international carriers the cost of immigration officers attending to the arrival and departures of crafts.

“As we all know it is a necessity to have immigration offices at our airport and seaport to vet those entering and departing our shores.”

He said the Amendment Bill will support the modernisation process by empowering MFAI to recover from international carriers the cost of immigration officers attending to the arrival and departure of crafts.