Pacific leaders say offering ‘vaccine visas’ would be the biggest incentive for people staying longer to get hit by Covid-19, as Auckland struggles to stop the spread of infections in the community.
It comes as epidemiologists say the government must do everything it can to vaccinate people amid rising numbers of cases.
Immigration attorney Richard Small of Pacific Legal today called for visas to only be granted to those who get vaccinated, and an amnesty for people who stay longer and to be doubly imposed.
The Pacific Leadership Forum is calling for an amnesty for those overstaying through a parliamentary petition, which garnered support from the Employers and Manufacturers Association.
The forum’s Pacific Response Coordination Team chair, Pakilau Manase Lua, said adding an immigration incentive to that amnesty would be very effective.
“I would guarantee them that probably 99.9 percent of those who stay longer will get out of the carpentry and get vaccinated if that was their way to residency or amnesty to make their papers legal here,” Lua said.
“They are desperate. It was hard enough before the arrival of Covid for these people to survive; they have to work, they have to find a way to earn a living. Moving from house to house and at the whim of family and friends who they are protecting them. And that is a risk for themselves and for others if they are not vaccinated. “
Among the 14,000 people who stay out of the stay, the highest figures without valid visas are those of Tonga and Samoa. One-fifth of current active Covid-19 cases are among people in the Pacific, and their complete vaccination rates are lower (59 percent) than the national average (67 percent).
If the government was concerned that an amnesty would be unpopular, it needed to ensure that politics did not trump public health, Lua said.
“Optics doesn’t matter, it’s life and death. In a pandemic, what is optics compared to human lives? We have a virus in South Auckland among our communities where most of the people who stay the longest live. weather”.
“And despite all the guarantees of going out to do the test and get vaccinated, we know that many have not yet been vaccinated, some have entered, but most have not. Rightly, they fear authority, they are people who hide from authority because they have deportation orders or other things hanging over them. “
Tongan Manase Lua, who stayed longer as a child during the Dawn raids before an amnesty gave his family a permanent future, said launching a similar pardon now would also acknowledge the reality that no one could be deported back. to the Pacific Islands as long as there was a risk of them spreading Covid-19 there.
It was astonishing that the government was ignoring the risk, as well as the contribution made by those who stay longer, he said.
“They are resourceful, they work hard, they often do the work that no one else wants to do on the front line; while we work from home and in the safety and security of the home, they are on the front line. Picking fruit, cleaning the goods. floors, scrubbing hospital floors and all the hard work that we take for granted. Then they would love this opportunity to be a person, to be a human being in the country who says he is kind. “