Senior politicians from Five Eyes countries meeting in Wellington

Migration is at the top of the agenda.
Migration is at the top of the agenda. Photo credit: Suella Braverman / Twitter.

By Gill Bonnett of RNZ

Leading politicians from the Five Eyes countries are meeting in Wellington this week, with migration at the top of the agenda.

UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman is among those gathering for the Five Country Ministerial on Tuesday and Wednesday, describing it as an "important meeting of the closest of allies".

Documents released to RNZ last week showed Immigration New Zealand was exploring a labour mobility scheme being trialled by the US and Canada.

The five-country ministerial talks will also address national security, child sex abuse, democratic resilience, cyber security and foreign espionage at universities.

Michael Wood was due to host the meeting, but Andrew Little - the new immigration minister and also minister for defence and the security services - has taken the lead.

A preparatory steering group of officials in Vancouver earlier this year worked on potential discussion topics, according to a briefing released to RNZ under the Official Information Act.

"United States is close to making an announcement of a pilot with the United States, Canada and Spain, working with the governments of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras through the Ministry of Labor in each country to match the skills of potential migrants with job opportunities in receiving countries," it read.

"The scheme has a focus on ethical recruitment with the Ministry of Labor in each country having thousands of eligible workers in their databases. These ministries become full-service recruitment agencies, undertaking the identification of potential migrants, matching with job opportunities, processing of visas and passports and then supporting the migrants while they are working offshore. Pre-visa checks also include health screening and background checks. Specific skill requests can be accommodated.

"INZ continues to explore how New Zealand could join this proposal and what opportunities there are for both employers and migrants."

It described the migration as 'circular', similar to that operated in agricultural migrant worker schemes such as New Zealand's RSE, but being extended to other sectors.

"The United States confirmed that there have not been any problems with overstaying on previous iterations of the scheme with most migrants keen to return home so they can be rehired and incentivised to return to allow others in their communities or families to also participate in the scheme."

Canada noted that fewer than 1 percent of its seasonal agricultural workers claimed asylum while in the country.

"Similar to New Zealand, the Canadian scheme is employer-driven and circular and they were looking to replicate that in this scheme, with a view to expanding the numbers. New Zealand noted its commitment to its Pacific partners, which would need to be reflected in any public communications."