Emergency benefits for migrants are being phased out as of today, and advocates say the timing couldn’t be worse.
The Ministry of Social Development has been providing benefits to migrants since it replaced a Red Cross support scheme last year.
The founder of the migration think tank The Fair Initiative, Charlotte te Riet Scholten-Phillips, said migrants pay the same taxes and should be allowed benefits because Covid-19 had created extraordinary circumstances.
“It is very disappointing that the government has decided to stop these benefits when there is obviously still a need,” he said.
“It’s heartbreaking to hear constant reference to the ‘5 million team’ and how our wonderful essential workers are contributing to our Covid response, but when the migrants on that team need help, we are turned away.
“How is it that one moment we are part of the ‘team’ or ‘essential’ and the next it is okay to force migrants into poverty and possibly homelessness? Is this what New Zealand is now? happened to our legendary goodness? “
Among temporary visa holders there are an estimated 25,000 international students, who are limited to working 20 hours a week.
The Ministry of Social Development told the International Students Association (NZISA) that emergency benefits were only available to temporary visa holders as a short-term solution while they arranged to return to their home countries or find work.
The tips on the website of the Ministry of Social Development say that those who still need support should contact their embassy.
NZISA is also upset that a hardship fund is only available to New Zealand domestic students, when it was offered to international students during the close of last year.
Some were struggling to find work, especially since they were not allowed to work full time unless they were employees of a supermarket, said its president Afiqah Ramizi.
“Normally, international students would be funded by family members or by a scholarship,” he said. “The problem with most of those who are financed by their relatives is that other countries are in a worse position due to Covid-19.
“International students have also told us that they have not received any response from their embassies when seeking support at this time.
“It is a bad time that the benefits expire now. We request more time, we request at least coverage in levels 4 and 3.”
He said it was too much to ask students to return to their home countries, wasting the money they had paid for their courses and the time they had spent on incomplete studies, and returning to countries where Covid-19 was a very real danger. .
“NZISA is extremely disappointed by the inaction of the government and education providers and the lack of support for international students during this time of crisis,” Ramizi said.
“We pay high fees to international students, support local economies and contribute to the New Zealand job market. At the same time, we are isolated from our families who are also struggling abroad.”
“This disparity between the support provided to international students and domestic students continues to drive a wedge between our communities. This shows that international students are not a valued community.
“Immigration New Zealand could shape the Canadian government’s approach to removing the 20-hour limit for all international students working in priority sectors over lockdown.”
MSD said migrants who receive an emergency benefit will receive their last two pay days in the week beginning Sept. 6.
Kay Read, general manager of the customer service delivery group, said that people who need more support or advice on repatriation should contact their Embassy, High Commission or Consulate.
“MSD’s Community Connectors will also be available to assist temporary visa holders currently receiving an Emergency Benefit to help them participate in missions abroad and other support from available community and non-governmental organizations,” Read said.
“Immigration New Zealand (INZ) also continues to provide funds through the INZ Repatriation Fund. This fund helps people who are in distress and need help paying for travel back to their home country.”
MSD said any decision to extend the availability of benefits would be for ministers to consider.
In a statement, the Ministry of Education said the $ 1 million International Student Hardship Fund was established in May 2020 and had been distributed to about 4,000 students.
“The Student Hardship Fund helps tertiary education organizations to provide temporary financial assistance to national tertiary education students facing difficulties due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Ministry of Education tertiary group manager Belinda Himion.
“Since the return to alert level 4, officials have been meeting regularly with major organizations, including international student leaders, to understand and respond to the needs of the sector.”