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Immigration NZ to help 23 Chinese workers left jobless and homeless in Auckland

Immigration New Zealand is stepping in to help 23 Chinese construction workers left jobless and homeless in Auckland.

Donations of food and beds have been pouring in for the men who were earlier this week evicted from their accommodation.

They say they paid thousands of dollars for working visas and were promised jobs by National Personnel Ltd (NPL).

But since arriving here, they've barely had work.

"Not only were we cheated financially, but we feel like we've wasted a lot of time," Li Hua Cheng, one of the construction workers told 1 NEWS.

Their visas mean they can only work for NPL.

Today the Immigration Department and minister stepped in, as Mike Treen of Unite Union told the Chinese workers.

"They will work with us to try and regularise your status and get new visas for you," he told the workers to applause.

It's now hoped the majority of them will have their visas changed so they can work for other construction companies.

"We're very confident that they'll all be able to find work very quickly if Immigration New Zealand is not blocking that change of status to their visa," Mr Treen said.

Multiple employers have offered the men work.

"I'm very happy when I hear the news of what the New Zealand Government has done for us," Gen Xiang Chen, another of the construction workers said.

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway says visas should be changed in such cases.

"I do agree that where it's appropriate that variations to visas should be put in place, especially when people have come forward and made claims of exploitation or made claims that their visa conditions haven't been met," he said. 

And the Government has a warning for labour hire companies, like the one involved in this case. It's set to introduce tougher checks for employers looking to hire multiple migrants, making it much harder for them to do so.

"It's definitely not appropriate for people to be paying above the odds for their visa. Nor is it appropriate for people to be paying for the right to have a job. This is exactly the sort of exploitation that I have heard a lot about, " Mr Lees-Galloway said.

Immigration New Zealand says it is investigating NPL and boss Peter Li.

"They are recruiting form all over the world. I think they need to be stopped from doing that," Mr Treen said.

And with the construction industry crying out for workers, the 23 Chinese men hope they can soon jump into that pool. 

The case raises wider questions about migrant exploitation at a time when many industries face labour shortages. Source: 1 NEWS