NZ govt offers dawn raided Tongan overstayer a lifeline, promises better policies

A Tongan man arrested for overstaying in New Zealand has been granted a six-month work visa and set on a path to permanent residency.

The man was arrested in the early hours of the morning last month, and an outcry followed, as the New Zealand government had apologised for the 1970s Dawn Raids in 2021.

RNZ Pacific reports the after-hours visits by officials to confirm people's immigration status has been halted in the aftermath.

The man's lawyer Soane Foliaki said the Associate Immigration Minister Rachel Brooking reviewed the man's case and approved the six-month work visa on May 4.

Foliaki said this allows the man to return to his construction job in Auckland, and within that six-month period he can apply for a residency visa on the basis of his marriage to a New Zealand resident.

"He will do that before the six months is up," Foliaki said.

"But it takes about a year or two - it could be fast - but usually [it takes] about a year to do that process. So he would need to apply to renew his work visa, as they process his residency application."

Foliaki said the man had paperwork for an application.

He said some of the supporting documentation was "a little bit old" but they were in the process of trying to file an application when he was picked up.

Foliaki claimed the early morning visit by immigration officials to the Tongan man's home was no different to the Dawn Raids of the 1970s.

But he said the government ministers who had spoken about the issue were "genuine".

Immigration Minister Michael Wood and Deputy Prime Minister Carmel Sepuloni were present at a meeting in Auckland on May 6, and among the issues discussed were pathways to residency for overstayers.

Sepuloni said the government is working steadily to improve Immigration New Zealand's policies and processes.

The New Zealand government is also considering an amnesty for overstayers but Minister Wood said he cannot say when a decision would be made.

Meanwhile, a Tongan community leader who chaired the public meeting rubbished claims that overstayers were "a drain" on the New Zealand economy.

Pakilau Manase Lua said overstayers pay taxes, both GST and income tax, like everyone else - around $NZ30 million a year just on GST.

"To say that they're a drain here - they're not," Pakilau said.

He said while he does not condone the overstaying, some have complex circumstances that lead to it.


Soane Foliaki says a Tongan man arrested for overstaying has been put on the path to permanent residency in New Zealand. Photo: Lydia Lewis/RNZ