Support 'came too late' for family facing deportation over food vouchers

Support for migrant workers came too late for a family now facing deportation after using false addresses to claim food vouchers during the alert level 4 lockdown.
Jeffrey Pinlac Santos, a carpenter living in Cromwell under a work visa, was convicted of using a document for a pecuniary advantage after claiming $1600 of vouchers from the Queenstown Lakes District Council.

The Immigration and Protection Tribunal has now dismissed an appeal against Immigration New Zealands decision to hand Santos, his wife and 7-year-old son deportation liability notices.

Chris Skelton/Stuff
Mikee Santos is the chairman of Migrante Aotearoa and coordinator of the Union Network of Migrants.

Mikee Santos, the chairman of Filipino migrant support group Migrante Aotea and coordinator of Union Network of Migrants, said support for migrants came too late in the pandemic.

* Family to be deported after wrongly claiming food vouchers during Covid-19 lockdown
* Builder falsely claimed $1600 worth of food vouchers during lockdown
* The go home benefit that isnt

Jeffrey Santos had told the tribunal his income had been halved by the lockdown and he was desperate to provide for his family.

Jo McKenzie-McLean/Stuff
Jeffrey Pinlac Santos was convicted in the Alexandra District Court of using a document for a pecuniary advantage over wrongly claiming $1600 food vouchers. (File Photo)

His plight was symbolic of many migrant workers, who were not eligible for Government help like the Covid-19 Income Relief Payment, Mikee Santos said.

When their salaries are cut in half during lockdown, everyone goes through hardship.

New Zealand went into lockdown in March 2020, but it wasnt until December that emergency benefits for those on temporary work, student or visitor visas were introduced.

The penalty the family faced was too harsh, Mikee Santos, who is no relation, said.

They are telling him to go back to the Philippines where there are 5000 daily Covid cases, there is four million unemployed, and a militarised lockdown, its like going back to hell.

Philippines Ambassador Jesus Gary Domingo agreed it would have been ideal for support for migrants to be put in place from the start of the pandemic.

Deportation was unfair, as other migrant workers had committed crimes and were not deported, he said.

Auckland Action Against Poverty coordinator Brooke Pao Stanley agreed, saying many migrant workers were severely disadvantaged as they werent eligible for government assistance.

Current benefit levels and government support for our migrant communities force people to break the law in order to provide for their families.

National MP Jacqui Dean, who is the MP for the familys electorate of Waitaki, has been contacted for comment.


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