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Work visa checks for asylum seekers labelled discriminatory by advocates

Asylum seekers are having to undergo extra checks in a move advocates say diminishes their rights.

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Immigration New Zealand is now asking for medical and police certificates for work visas. Source: 1 NEWS

Immigration New Zealand is now asking for medical and police certificates for work visas.

It's a requirement of the application process but the checks had mostly been waived until just recently.

"They never asked for the checks they always waived the need to do them," Tim Maurice of Asylum Seekers Support Trust said.

Mr Maurice said asylum seekers are now being treated like other immigrants when their circumstances are very different.

"Their claim is based on fear of persecution in their home country, not how healthy they are.

"Getting a police certificate done from your home country, often the very country you're trying to escape from, it will put yourself and family in danger."

Immigration lawyer Kamil Lakshman says it's a human rights issue.

"They feel they do not have a voice, so it's a further minimisation of their rights," he said.

Immigration New Zealand said it is working to address the concerns about health checks, but they are needed to protect the public.

It says officers can still waive the need for certificates on a case-by-case basis.

"They need to work, they need to survive in New Zealand,' Mr Lakshman said.

"Now the government is very worried about migrant exploitation, now if you have a person that doesn't have a visa, is unable to work, then he will or she will fall into the hands of those trying to exploit them."

A total of 510 people claimed asylum in New Zealand last year, the highest number in almost 15 years - and processing times are getting longer.

The Asylum Seekers Support Trust says it now takes eight months before a case is even picked up.

"They are sitting around waiting, not knowing what's going to happen, not able to work, not able to contribute to society, not able to pay taxes, not able to do any good," Mr Maurice said.

"So it has a very detrimental effect on their mental health."