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Greens: Work & Income Treatment Of Refugees Appalling

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Sue Bradford. Pic: NZPA
Sue Bradford. Pic: NZPA

9 April 2009 - In the House today, Green Party Employment spokesperson Sue Bradford has questioned the Minster for Social Development Paula Bennett over Work and Income's appalling treatment of a group of Burmese refugees.

"A group of unemployed Burmese refugees were rounded up by Work and Income staff in Wellington, Porirua and Palmerston North, separated from their families, and sent off to pick fruit in Napier," said Ms Bradford.

"They were expected to reside in a local hall and had around $180 per week deducted from their meagre pay for this substandard board and lodgings.

"Before setting off to work they had been promised special assistance with transition to work grants and decent pay rates, neither of which eventuated. Some had only $20 a week left after expenses were deducted.

"After two weeks the group left the job and returned home. To cap it all off, the refugees were treated in totally different ways when they got back home."

Some were put back on the unemployment benefit right away. Others were given a 13 week stand down, which meant they had no money to feed, shelter or clothe themselves or their families.

While pressure from the Wellington People's Centre has seen Work and Income back down on the stand down periods, we remain concerned that this situation ever arose in the first place.

The workers affected were also not given enough help with language translation in their dealings with the Department, making a difficult situation even worse.

"This particularly vulnerable group should have been treated as fairly by Work and Income as any other group of jobseekers," said Ms Sue Bradford.

The Green Party calls on the Minister for Social Development to take immediate action to ensure this kind of systemic and possibly racist maltreatment of a particular group of unemployed does not occur again, and that all Work and Income offices ensure people are treated fairly and well.

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