One thousand immigration staff cannot work from home during locking because they do not have remote work skills or a secure network.
Immigrants expressed frustration at not getting answers to their urgent visa questions, and how few immigration employees were employed.
Some lost their jobs and wanted visas to start other jobs, while others wanted news about their applications.
The government promises A law that is tracked quickly will speed up decisions about what will happen to immigrants.
Immigration attorney Richard Small said that emerging New Zealand Immigration (INZ) restructuring in the last five years has promised agile immigration services that will deal with online applications.
“When encouragement came to push, we found that New Zealand Immigration was very limited to work from its office and had not made the right plan for its staff to work remotely,” he said.
“We understand that staff, for the most part, are not permitted to bring their laptops home with them and that there are no broad plans for staff to be able to work from home, other than managers.
“Then they get into this problem where they don’t have the correct version of Windows for security.
“The Ministry of Justice handles material as sensitive as New Zealand Immigration, they have been working from home protocols for years.
“If it’s good enough to ask Parliament to change parts of the Immigration Act, which they do, and overthrow the traditional role of ministers – which is a real problem – I think it’s fair to ask whether the new structure is suitable for its purpose.”
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Another immigration lawyer, Mark Williams, described the amendment bill introduced yesterday as giving “unbridled power”.
“It’s very clear what we have here is a law which is an ambulance at the bottom of the cliff,” he said.
“INZ is in chaos. Somehow the significant and important MBIE department has 1000 employees at home who can’t work remotely.
“It is unfortunate that such a strong and free instrument is needed to improve this situation and thus, jeopardize the ability of migrants to have access to justice to be able to exercise the rights granted to them under the 2009 Immigration Act.
“Out of the 1000 employees who cannot work from home, INZ began to introduce some back to their offices so that they could resume work, but the floor loading was only 20 percent maximum for staff who could return to work below the alert level 3 and only floor loading 50 percent are contemplated below the alert level 2. “
Immigration Minister Iain Lees Galloway confirmed that his staff could not work due to the lack of a secure network.
He acknowledged criticism of INZ’s delay and lack of pandemic planning.
He said a law would be enacted by the end of next week giving the government more power, but said it would also have checks and balances.
This will help them make timely, fair and humanitarian decisions for immigrants, he said, and will have checks and balances including that power will only last a year.
“The New Zealand immigration system needs to be renewed and the work is ongoing,” he said.
“It has been going on for some time, they have been restructuring since before I became a minister.
“In the meantime, it is important that the immigration system is more agile and that we can maintain the welfare of migrants and maintain the integrity of our immigration system.
“It is true that the immigration system is truly paper based, we are already in the process of looking to digitize more of their work and work is being done to bring more automation to the immigration system as well.”
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