Red and Starry Eyed | Issue 4

On Immigration

New Zealand likes to mythologise itself “100% green”. A similar myth is that the country is tolerant and open to migrants. You may remember last year a boat of Sri Lankan migrants “threatened” to make it to our picturesque coasts. “Luckily” it didn’t. John Key used rhetoric that implied they would add themselves to the queues at WINZ, increase crime and generally be no good. We will have many more such threats in the coming years – especially from Pacific Islands such as Kiribati, sinking under rising sea levels – and sadly John’s views are not a minority.

According to the New Zealand Herald on March 5, a review of existing immigration legislation could result in richer migrants being given more rights to settle in New Zealand than poorer migrants, even if the latter’s children already live here.

The Cabinet paper says it wants to reduce the number of immigrant dole-bludgers, and any non-English-speaking migrant will have to pre-pay for lessons before entering the country.

This sort of legislation allows rich movie directors to enter the country even if they’re not spending any time here, while refugees – be they environmental or political – and your average Joe will not be able to take a step in the country.

This sort of immigration policy falls squarely into that form of casual racism that New Zealanders love to ignore, and only serves to increase the class divide. The latest 2001 census shows that eight of the nine top immigrant nationalities have English as an official language. There is no need to make legislation that will affect non-English-speaking people, generally the type who aren’t just looking for an economic leg up, but are trying to escape horrific lifes in their home countries.

I say escape because immigration is not normally the first idea that comes to mind when someone is facing economic hardship. Leaving a country is expensive in itself. In most casesit is very risky; and it is scary to move to a place where you have never been, that you don’t quite understand and that is so far, and so different, from your own country. People emmigrate because they are seeking better opportunities for themselves and their children.

It is a myth that migrants come here to sap our, may I say, improvable welfare system. It is also untrue that they steal our jobs, or that they increase crime. Often immigrants invest in the economy to form an active part of their adopted country.

Borders should be open and passports shredded. Anyone, regardless of the size of their wallet, should have the right to travel freely anywhere.

– Red and Starry Eyed
This article first appeared in Issue 4, 2012.
Posted 4:27pm Sunday 18th March 2012 by Red and Starry Eyed.