‘Let migrant workers return to New Zealand!’

By Felicity Coggan
June 28, 2021
Militant/Felicity Coggan

AUCKLAND, New Zealand — “They are us. They belong here. Bring them back!” Unite Union Co-president Tina Barnett told a rally organized by the Federation of Aotearoa Migrants here June 5. Over 800 people marched to demand border restrictions be lifted to allow immigrant workers and their families to return to New Zealand.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the government has closed the border to essentially all but citizens or permanent residents, stranding 19,000 workers with temporary work visas and their families who happened to be overseas at the time. “I haven’t seen my wife for 16 months,” said Nitish Chopra, whose wife is stranded in India.

Marchers, who included participants from Christchurch, Wellington, Tauranga and Rotorua, chanted “Let us stay!” and “When migrants rights are under attack, stand up, fight back!” They demanded the government create genuine pathways to residency, for an amnesty for those who “overstay” their visa, and for an end to visas that tie immigrants to jobs with just one employer.