Greens concerned migrant emergency benefit tiers will create further hardship

Green MP Ricardo Menéndez March welcomes the emergency benefit but has concerns it could cause further hardship for migrants.
Green MP Ricardo Menéndez March welcomes the emergency benefit but has concerns it could cause further hardship for migrants. Photo credit: Getty Images

Green MP Ricardo Menéndez March welcomes the news migrants will be able to access emergency benefits but has concerns it may create another "tier of beneficiaries" and "condemn migrant communities to severe hardship".

The announcement on Friday will allow people on temporary work, student, or visitor visas who can't support themselves to access emergency welfare. 

But Menéndez March says that unless emergency benefits match current benefits migrants will end up facing further adversity. 

"The Greens are very clear that we need to ensure the amount given out by the emergency benefit is no less than what migrants would be eligible for if they were to access a normal benefit."

He says current benefits are "already too low" and anything less will force migrants to require even more assistance, such as food grants. 

President of the Migrant Workers Association Anu Kaloti says the association has been calling for access to emergency benefits since the first lockdown. 

"It's a very, very positive and welcome move." 

With tens of thousands of families accessing the Red Cross' relief packages Kaloti says the benefit is "timely" as these packages will no longer be available by the end of November.

It is unknown how much money migrants will be able to receive when accessing an emergency benefit - but CEO of Community Law Aotearoa Sue Moroney says it's a better alternative to other funds that have been provided this year to migrants with no income. 

"The Civil Defence Emergency Management funds and then the Foreign Nationals package provided useful additional support for those suddenly trapped here without income, but they were never a satisfactory substitute for access to the emergency benefit," she says. 

"These ad hoc approaches have been difficult for migrants to access and navigate. The emergency benefit already has systems and processes in place, making it more straightforward to access and administer."

Menéndez March himself knows what it's like for this situation to be a reality. 

"Having been unemployed in the past without legally qualifying for any assistance from the Government in the form of benefits it's incredibly hard and often pushes you into debt. In my case, it did."

He says it's a situation "nobody should be put into," hoping this benefit will stack up and not cause further harm.