A young migrant family was issued deportation notices late last year for ‘illegally’ accessing $1600 worth of food vouchers which were meant for people who couldn’t get government subsidies. The father is here on a working visa and found he wasn’t eligible for government support during level 4 lockdown.
“Current benefit levels and government support for our migrant communities force people to break the law in order to provide for their families. Mr Santos was just trying to feed his family. It shows what kind of system we are operating in when he, his wife and young child are now being severely punished for doing that” says Auckland Action Against Poverty coordinator Brooke Pao Stanley.
Many migrant people and families during that first level 4 lockdown were severely disadvantaged because their visas meant they weren’t eligible for government assistance. Despite being granted access to emergency benefits they’re not entitled to supplementary assistance like accommodation or even food grants, which we know give people a little bit more in order to survive. If they had been granted these things from the beginning, Mr Santos and his family might not be in this situation.
I’m certain that if many of us found ourselves in the position of Mr Santos we would do the same thing. What’s more important than making sure you and your family eat? This is absolutely unjust and cruel to send them back to the Philippines which is under one of the strictest and highly militarised responses to lockdowns in the world. What happened to the whole sentiment of ‘we’re all in this together’ and ‘team of five million’?.
The government needs to overturn this decision and allow Mr Santos and his young family to stay in NZ. They also need to grant migrants access to all supplementary assistance at Work and Income and lift benefit levels so people aren’t forced to break the law in order to survive. Everyone should be looked after irrespective of their immigration status.