Petition to assist Samoan overstayers launched
New Zealand Parliamentarians have been asked to consider pathways for overstayers, including Samoans, on compassionate grounds.
The request has been put to the N.Z. Parliament through a petition, which has been filed by a group called the Pacific Leadership Forum [P.L.F.], which comprise community leaders from Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Cook Islands, Solomon, Niue, Tokelau, and Vanuatu currently living in New Zealand.
The petition was published on the New Zealand Parliament website on 20 June 2020.
According to a statement released by the P.L.F., they submitted a petition to the New Zealand Parliament as they are of the view that families of overstayers are now more vulnerable during the coronavirus [COVID-19] global pandemic lockdown.
The PLF representatives have been meeting regulatory during the lockdown to provide a Pacific Response Coordination Team to support the New Zealand Government’s response to COVID-19.
During the response work, vulnerable families were immediately identified by the P.L.F. and community support was provided to these families, through collaboration with healthcare providers, and charity organisations.
Amongst these vulnerable families are overstayers, who were unable to qualify for any social security benefit, government wage subsidy or any official support.
The P.R.C.T. has worked with various providers to support these overstayers with food parcels.
Although these are Pacific families identified as part of the response to COVID-19, the P.L.F. believes that other ethnic communities share the same challenges.
The P.L.F. added that many overstayers live with constant anxiety, depression, and fear of being deported or told on to the authorities by family, friends or neighbours.
This is compounded further by the COVID-19, the recent lockdown and risk of a second wave of infections. It is almost impossible to track and trace overstayers, given they often move from one house to another. But this is a public health risk for them, if they are too scared to be tested or seek treatment, and a risk for the entire country.
Most of these overstayers are well-settled in New Zealand, earning their way through various means and contributing to the country’s economy. Many have paid taxes here for years but have never accessed the WINZ benefit system so it is hard to work.
The skills they have gained while living in New Zealand are vital to the various sectors they have been contributing to.