Republic of the Philippines

50 Hobson Street, Thorndon, Wellington, New Zealand 6011

Recruitment fee complaints pile up

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About 30 Filipino rebuild workers have brought a complaint against barred Christchurch recruitment firm Business Immigration.

Philippines authorities this month suspended Business Immigration and its Philippines subsidiary, Sacred Heart International, from bringing migrant workers in from the Philippines. The ban followed reports they were involved with charging recruitment fees of up to $13,000 - three times the legal limit.

The firms were barred by the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) after eight Auckland workers brought a formal complaint against them.

Those workers had since retracted their complaints, the POEA said.

It is unclear why they retracted, and the agency. The POEA confirmed the suspension remains in place while investigations continue.

In Christchurch, Filipino man Sam Bruzo says he has spent two weeks collecting statements from about 30 rebuild workers who came to Christchurch from the Philippines through Business Immigration and one of its Philippines subsidiaries.

Bruzo said Filipino rebuild workers had told him they were charged excessive fees. He sent complaints to the Philippines embassy at the end of last week.

The Press spoke to three migrant workers who were in the process of making a formal complaint.

Adrean, who wanted to be known by first name only, had receipts for a loan to Sacred Heart International of nearly $15,000.

Two other workers came with Greenfields, another Philippines partner listed by Business Immigration.

They claimed they paid fees of between $10,000 and $13,000. They also had receipts indicating they paid $1480 in other fees to Business Immigration upon arrival to New Zealand. The workers were paying off their loans at a rate of around $1000 a month, with the rest of their money being sent home to pay for school fees.

Adrean said: "Some days I do not eat anything, because I have spent all the money on the loan or sent to my family."

Immigration Advisers Authority (IAA) acting registrar Catherine Albiston said the authority "takes allegations of this nature very seriously and we are currently looking into this matter".

She would not comment on whether Business Immigration could lose its licence.

Business Immigration directors refused to comment.

Immigration lawyer Mark Williams said if the fees had been paid by workers in the Philippines, New Zealand companies could not necessarily be held responsible.

"If it was a situation where the New Zealand entity was receiving the benefit of funds from offshore that could create an issue but if its was a situation where the offshore entity was doing their own thing and was beyond the control of the New Zealand company, it would be difficult for that to create a [legal] issue for the New Zealand company," he said.

Albiston encouraged any other migrant workers with concerns come forward and speak to the authority.

Talking to the IAA would not affect the status of their visa applications, she said.

  • The Press

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