The Catholic Agency for Justice, Peace and Development

Time to show some Kiwi hospitality to migrant workers

Caritas staff members in 2018 hold their arms open in welcome for Share the Journey.

As we approach the Day of Prayer for Refugees and Migrants, Caritas Engagement Manager Roger Ellis reflects on the need for "Kiwi hospitality" toward migrant workers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Through no fault of their own hundreds of thousands of migrant workers have been left stranded in New Zealand by the COVID-19 global pandemic and the lockdown.

When the lockdown took effect at short notice many of these workers were serving in essential roles in our communities and filling skills shortages. Some have families of their own who rely on them sending remittances back home when they can.

With the COVID-19 pandemic affecting the economy worldwide, here in New Zealand, the government has been quick to offer emergency benefits to New Zealanders – however one big section of the workforce who are missing out are migrant workers.

Today many of these migrants find themselves without jobs and without any NZ government welfare support. To make matters worse, COVID-19 travel restrictions imposed by other countries can make returning to their home country difficult or impossible.

As New Zealanders we pride ourselves on the welcome we provide to visitors from overseas. It’s a value deeply ingrained in both Te Ao Māori – manaakitanga – and Pākehā cultural roots – hospitality. Some of our migrant workers have abruptly been cast aside and left to fend for themselves. Some local authorities such as the Queenstown District Council have provided last resort help through civil defence funds, but these funds are of limited duration.

A number of church agencies are also helping when they are made aware of those in need. But until our guests can safely return home or find new employment here, we need to show some kiwi hospitality, some manaakitanga. The government could help through an extension of emergency benefit payments to those migrant workers who are in need.

This Sunday, June 21, marks the Day of Prayer for Refugees and Migrants in New Zealand. In the week leading up to this day of prayer, Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand, the Catholic Bishops’ organisation for justice, peace and development, is inviting communities to reflect on the issue of migrant exploitation around the theme “Where is your brother or sister?”

Pope Francis continues to challenge us to welcome, protect, promote and integrate migrants and refugees in our communities. This Sunday let’s take a moment to pause and reflect on the good fortune we have to live in a place like Aotearoa New Zealand and let’s remember to lend a hand to any migrant workers in need at this time.

Caritas resources for the Day of Prayer for Refugees and Migrants are available to download for free on the Day of Prayer for Refugees and Migrants web page.

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Tutu ana te puehu - Stirring up the dust