Pasifika leaders are warning that overstayers could be a weak link if there’s a resurgence of community transmitted Covid-19 cases.
They’re urging the Government to grant the overstayers residency so they stop moving around, living in secret crowded conditions, providing perfect conditions for a virus explosion.
According to the Government, a person’s immigration status won’t stop them getting Covid-19 treatment.
If an overstayer is unwell and seeks medical help their information won’t be passed to other agencies. But Pasifika community leaders say overstayers won’t take that risk.
“If any of them catch Covid you can’t track or trace them because they move from home to home. They live in fear,” says Pakilau Manase Lua from Pacific Response Coordination.
Immigration hasn’t updated overstayer numbers since 2017. Back then nearly 5,000 of the 13,000 overstayers were Pasifika.
It’s why the Pacific Leadership Forum including church ministers have kickstarted a petition calling for a pathway towards getting residency.
“Get them working they can work. We don’t condone overstaying we know it’s not the right thing for peple to do, but it happens and they’re here,” says Pakilau Manase Lua.
So far over 8,000 people have signed and numerous stories are emerging of expoitation of overstayers who are working.
“If the employer is aware that this person hasn’t got a visa to work sometimes they won’t get paid for a number of weeks, especially during lockdown,” Makahokovalu Pailate from the Pacific Leadership Forum says.
In a statement Immigration Minister Iain Lees Galloway says anyone without a visa needs to contact Immigration New Zealand who he says will treat people with compassion and flexibility.