According to recent data from Immigration New Zealand (INZ), out of 3,415 work visas issued to Vietnamese nationals since the Accredited Employer Work Visa began, 2,764 have arrived in the country.
However, some of these migrants are falling prey to a vicious cycle of debt as they resort to cultivating illegal cannabis to repay the large sums of money they owe their agents for entry into the country. This cycle of debt and desperation is turning workers into "crop-sitters," who risk arrests for growing the cannabis.
INZ investigations manager Carl Knight has stated that the agency has encountered numerous instances of this insidious cycle, and in one case, a former chef from a leading Vietnamese restaurant group, which recruited staff through the AEWV scheme, was deported for overstaying his visa and unlawfully cultivating cannabis. This problem is not limited to the restaurant industry, as several other Vietnamese workers employed by construction firms and restaurants are also under investigation in New Zealand for their involvement in cultivation rings.
The situation is alarming, and INZ's national manager of investigations, Stephanie Greathead, says the agency will assist the police operationally, wherever applicable. To prevent such exploitation and illegal activities, INZ participation in community engagement and education events aims to encourage lawful behaviour among migrant workers and to make them aware of their visa conditions, while also inviting anyone with grievances or exploitative experiences to come forward and report to the agency.
It is vital to address this problem immediately and provide support to these vulnerable individuals, ensuring they do not become victims of exploitation and illegal activities and are aware of the legal pathways to migrate and work in New Zealand.
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