Info meeting reassuring, migrants say

Desperation, sadness and hope were a few of the emotions on display at information sessions held in Queenstown yesterday for migrant workers affected by Covid-19.

About 60 people attended pop-up sessions hosted by the Queenstown Lakes District Council, which featured organisations including Immigration New Zealand, the Salvation Army and travel agents.

One-on-one sessions with the various agencies were available.

British migrant worker Laura Mae Young, who had been in the country for about two years, spoke to a travel agent and an immigration adviser.

Recently made redundant from her hotel job,

she attempted to seek information online about the conditions of her sponsorship visa but found it confusing.

An immigration adviser told her she was legally allowed to be here until March 2021 despite being unemployed.

However, she would still return to Scotland in the coming months due to a lack of work.

"I’m totally gutted, I could cry but it is what it is at the end of the day."

Pricilla Nadan, who was originally from Fiji but had lived in Queenstown for seven years, came to the session fearful of rumours she could be deported due to her redundancy.

"I have learned today that sometimes you have to put your voice out there, you have to be confident in what you want to know ... you don’t have to be scared. They were very open that they are not deporting anyone."

She said it was tough as Queenstown was now her home.

"If I have to go back [to Fiji] and start from scratch it will be really difficult."

Those concerns and themes were reflected in the many stories of those attending the sessions.

Immigration adviser Megan Wallace said some attendees expressed desperation in regard to their circumstances.

"They are petrified of having their visas cancelled or being deported."

However, the morning session reassured people that Immigration New Zealand would be "flexible" and "understanding" with migrant workers, Ms Wallace said.

"We don’t know how they are going to do that at the moment but they are dedicated to being flexible

... All they are asking for is communication, they just want migrants to be proactive with telling them their situation and looking for other options."

Daisy Breen, originally from England, was seeking advice about her visa after losing a job with a Queenstown tourism operator — which she did not want to name.

The session had given her hope.

"Whether the answers are good or bad it’s been really good to know that we’re not going to be kicked out immediately and that immigration is opening a dialogue.

"Rather than it being kind of clear cut about what’s going to happen to us."

Gerson Gondim, originally from Brazil, said information online was too confusing and said people at the sessions were friendly and able to make things much clearer.

Queenstown Lakes District Council corporate services manager Meaghan Miller said those present were a mix of ethnicities and nationalities from the hospitality, tourism and construction industries — predominantly

a younger demographic.

A vast majority were on some form of working visa; the only Kiwi present was seeking knowledge to assist migrant friends and workers.

"The tone today was really really positive."

Comments

A radio report mentioned fixed term tenancies, which cannot be broken without financial penalty. Landlords need to waive their constant insistence on money, if migrants have to go home.

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter