Chris Hipkins to look into Pacific overstayer petition
6 February, 2023, 7:00 pm
New Zealand’s new Prime Minister has agreed to look at an overstayer petition that was launched by Pacific community leaders almost three years ago.
The petition calls for pathways to residency to be established for Pasifika overstayers under compassion grounds. The petition has 11,119 signatures.
The Petitions Committee recommended that Parliament take note of it. Chris Hipkins was questioned by RNZ Pacific over a lack of action by the government over the issue.
“I want to make sure we have a country in New Zealand where Pacific people are respected, they have a place and where we can continue to maintain a really strong relationship with their home countries,” he said.
When questioned on whether he will make changes to the government’s policy, he said “I haven’t had an opportunity to look at that issue yet but I absolutely intend to look at it.”
One example given of Pasifika people who need support is Tongan overstayers who have nothing to go home to one year on from the devastating volcanic eruption. Pakilau Manase Lua, who is a Tongan community representative, said people are terrified they will be deported.
He said he is not advocating breaking the law. The people he is fighting for have legitimate reasons to stay and deserve compassion, he said.
“They might have been here during the lockdowns and they couldn’t go back. Or they were here on a temporary visa and it was difficult to go back due to the eruption so these people are probably wanting to find a better life, and what better place than Aotearoa New Zealand.
“These are people who are often already working,” Pakilau said.
Overstayers are contributing to the economy and are not eligible for benefits, he said. The government has said previously that it is: “committed to upholding a fair rules-based immigration system and delivering on the goals of the immigration rebalance”.
But it also admitted that: “progressing an amnesty for overstayers would be a considerable undertaking and regardless of which group of people it may be extended to, it would take time to progress and would require legislative change.”
Pakilau wants action now because at the moment overstayers and their children are scared.
“It ties in with the Dawn Raids apology, apologising is great but it is not going to solve the problem we have now especially their children, the children of overstayers are an innocent party it’s not their fault.”
Chris Hipkins said he is committed to Pacific Communities in Aotearoa and will look into the calls made in the petition.
- LYDIA LEWIS is a RNZ Pacific Journalist. The views expressed in this article does not necessarily reflect the views of this newspaper.