I have always been a big supporter of large-scale immigration. Like many people I have wondered how a decent man like Chris Faa’foi, the son of immigrants, appears to be procrastinating over immigration matters. I like Chris but his uncharacteristic diffidence has made me wonder what the matter with him really is. There have been articles about his desire to leave politics and that he was talked into remaining. If that is true, then the Labour Party should let him leave. I’ve talked people into staying in politics when they wanted to leave, and it was a mistake. Their hearts just not in it.
I have wanted to write something about immigration for weeks. Something stopped me. The media coverage reminds me of hyenas chewing on a corpse. Journalists are writing a decent man off when I suspect inside, he is being ripped apart. I couldn’t figure it out until I was listening to Chris Finlayson on RNZ on the Jim Mora programme. He despaired at the quality of advice he was getting for his time as Justice Minister from the Ministry of Justice.
That got me thinking. I was reminded that there has been a drop in institutional memory in most Government Departments. This is another by-product of the “contract” culture. People have moved from Department to Department and have bypassed the “lifer” aspects of former Government Departments. The old approach ensured that there was institutional memory with good people with knowledge of what had gone before.
Why doesn’t the Government use a similar method of getting advice about immigration as it does with outside info on how to handle Covid? It’s no use relying on a department which reputedly still has paper files to sort through.
Here’s an example of part of an article on an advisory group which the Government has used to advise them on how to handle Covid:
- Sir David Skegg has spent most of the past year thinking about the future. He chaired the group that provided the government with the scientific basis for its border reopening plan.
What’s stopping the Government deciding to say we need to approach this in a different way, just as we have with Covid 19.
2. Arihia Bennett chairs a group set up to advise the Government post the Mosque shootings:
“As an advisory group, we need to engender change … and the only way to do that is to work with – not around over the top or underneath – it’s to work alongside those government agencies…
“There’s no point clobbering everybody: the point should be, you’ve got a collective of fabulous independent voices, reflecting the wider community, let’s together use those voices to bring about some positive change within those government departments.”
Here’s how Andrew Little responded:
“We’ve had the Office of Ethnic Communities, now we’ve got the Ministry of Ethnic Communities, but it has been asked to do a really tough job with minimal resources, when actually what is needed is for government departments to adjust and adapt the way they engage with communities across the board.
“So, it was a wake-up call and timely, and important that we respond effectively.”
It must be possible for the Government do the same with Immigration. We must stop the sort of statements which were in the Guardian recently:
- Immigration New Zealand did not respond to a request for comment.
- Minister for immigration Kris Faafoi also did not respond to a request for comment.
These statements feature too often in articles on immigration. It’s time to stop. We used to have a great reputation on bringing into this country refugees and immigrants. Every single one of us, including Māori, are descendants of either immigrants or refugees.
It’s time for a change.
What is our challenge with immigration? Here’s a quote I liked by George Monbiot a Guardian columnist:
The world has probably a greater challenge than ever before with immigration. The tens of millions of people who are in refugee camps are a reminder to us all that they are an indicator of the disastrous lifestyles which they have left in their country.
The contribution immigrant communities make to a society which welcomes them is considerable. Abbas Nazari in his book “After the Tampa” wrote in his dedication
“To my Mum and Dad who gave up their today for our tomorrows”
This summarises in one sentence the risks people take for a new life in a safer place for their whanau.
In the Guardian recently there was an inspiring article about an immigrant community which had fought the status quo in Tottenham, in Britain. This, in one story, identifies one aspect of the wonderful contribution immigrants give to society. The first generation slog it out and are extremely hard workers. Their children flourish and become part of their adopted society. Think of Abbas Nazari last week. Here’s some part of the article:
The Latin Village market in Tottenham, north London, is a maze, offering everything from empanadas to nail jobs to news about jobs. Before the pandemic, it was a bustling shopping centre-cum-labour exchange-cum-community hub for expat Latin Americans and their kids – until Saturday night drew in, when the music bumped up a few notches and the dancing started. Vicky and many other traders came here as refugees. Together, they built businesses that sustain dozens of families and proudly watched their children grow up to become doctors and lawyers. The market is a story of how migrants can build a future for themselves and improve their new home, too. Trading out of tatty buildings, including a once grand but long abandoned Edwardian department store called Wards, they have breathed colour into dereliction.
No wonder the Latin Village gets love letters from the Washington Post and the UN. Were this in Berlin or Brooklyn, the market would be prized as a community jewel. Except this being London, it has been underfunded and under threat of demolition since 2004.
Alongside other traders and locals, Alvarez has spent years fighting developers and the local council, Haringey, as well as Sadiq Khan’s Transport for London, which owns the old Wards store and has let it rot. Over nearly two decades the fight for the Latin Village has grown in strength and significance. The arguments over a local market have become a battle for the future of our cities.
Until last Thursday, when the developer, Grainger, publicly announced it was dropping the entire scheme. It’s extraordinary enough for a big-money builder to flush away nearly two decades of deal-making and pledge-signing and buying up of land, but what follows could be really momentous. Starting next week, every big politician with a say on this issue – Khan, his deputy Heidi Alexander, David Lammy, Haringey’s senior councillors – will hammer out a plan for what to do next. Ultimately, they have two choices: stick with the broken old model of regeneration, or try something new.
Another side of the issue of immigration is what Bernard Hickey wrote recently. He feels that we need a population plan as a country. That would take years to develop. Here’s a bit of what Bernard wrote:
The failures of the last 20 years allowed us to develop a two-tiered society of residents and non-residents, property owners and non-property owners, rich and poor, young, and old, and European New Zealanders and the rest.
In the last decade New Zealand has embraced the idea of bringing in temporary workers to solve our labour shortage problems, or at least to allow us to continue to grow without having to invest too much in equipment or structural change. Accidentally on purpose, a flood of people on temporary visas of one sort or another came into the country. The myriad of people with essential skills, skilled migrant, student or working holiday visas and the scale of the numbers who came into the country was stunning. Somehow, we convinced ourselves that temporary workers would not put strains on our infrastructure or would not put down roots to New Zealand that would or should give these people the same rights as everyone else.
We now must decide whether we want to keep the two-tiered society we have developed over the last decade, and whether we should plan our population growth to match any of the infrastructure planning we do, let alone the planning and investment to improve the wellbeing of everyone still here. There are also the tricky areas of meeting our climate emissions commitments and our Treaty of Waitangi obligations.
The government has launched a review of migrant settings, using the Covid-19 border restrictions as a cold-turkey moment for a rethink of migrant worker numbers. There’s also a Productivity Commission review of the effects of temporary workers on the economy. But immigration minister Kris Faa’foi has determinedly said he is not considering these settings as part of a broader population strategy.
Here’s the article:
As a country we do not want to leave a vacuum to be filled by right-wing politicians who use refugees as stalking horses. In the UK the Minister for Home Affairs, Priti Patel, has announced that refugees will be turned away at the Coast if they arrive in the UK. This disgusting Minister, the daughter of Immigrants, is the sort of person who gives all politicians a bad name. She’s the John Howard of the UK.
We must get immigration policy right. The Government needs to be called to account for their dilatory behaviour towards immigrants and refugees. If he wants to go let Chris Faa’foi leave. The Government should reach across the aisle and bring Golriz Ghahraman into office as the Minister of Immigration. Consider these credentials which I found on a web site:
Golriz is an Iranian-Kiwi refugee and made history as the first ever refugee to be sworn in as an MP, having arrived in Aotearoa as a child asylum seeker with her family from Iran.
Her studies at Oxford, and her career as a lawyer in New Zealand and overseas, have focused on enforcing human rights and holding governments to account. Her work has included restoring communities after war and human rights atrocities, particularly empowering women engaged in peace and justice initiatives.
In New Zealand, she has successfully advocated on human rights issues before the Supreme Court. Before entering parliament, Golriz was active in the NGO community, as reflected by her board and governance roles. She volunteered her skills to advance justice reform, refugee and migrant rights, and for family carers of disabled persons. She was part of the team that worked to prepare New Zealand’s non-governmental report to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.