Anu Kaloti is a social justice activist. She is one of the founding members and current president of the Migrant Workers Association of Aotearoa. Anu and her family migrated to Aotearoa in 2003 and soon after she started volunteering with Unite union in a project to unionise migrant workers in the fast food sector. This was the precursor to Migrant Workers Association which was launched in 2012.
Migrant workers and Tiriti-based migration
In recent years New Zealand's migration policy has reduced the number of people granted permanent residence, while the number of temporary visas granted has increased significantly.
Most migrants start their immigration journey in New Zealand with the ultimate goal of being here permanently. As such, they work towards meeting the immigration requirements in place at the time, only to discover that the policies have been changed as they are about to get there. And this cycle keeps repeating resulting in migrants remaining here on temporary visa after temporary visa for years and up to a decade. Many have children born here who go to school here and don't know anywhere else as home.
The 'temporaryness' and the practice of attaching visas to employers, akin to modern day slavery, has created a class of the most vulnerable workers in the clean, green and compassionate Aotearoa.
Migrant Workers Association and the labour/trade unions have long asked for the practice of bonded labour, through visa attachments, to be stopped. Furthermore, our immigration policy is very eurocentric and fails to recognise Kaupapa Maori and other cultures. The immigration policy allows easier migration from most of the English-speaking western countries. It is also discriminatory towards people with disabilities. There’s also privileges for wealthy investors who wish to migrate to Aotearoa.
Amid Covid pandemic we saw the inequities of our immigration policy amplified even more. A Tiriti based and more equitable immigration policy is long overdue.