New le­gal clinic for mi­grants


A free le­gal clinic to help mi­grants and refugees has been swamped in the six weeks since it opened in cen­tral Christchurch.

The clinic is an ini­tia­tive of the Can­ter­bury Busi­ness As­so­ci­a­tion (CBA) with law in­tern vol­un­teers from the Uni­ver­sity of Can­ter­bury School of Busi­ness and Law.

CBA founder and chief ex­ec­u­tive Taz Muko­rom­bindo said the con­cept was in­spired by ma­jor and com­plex chal­lenges en­coun­tered by mi­grants try­ing to chart new wa­ters in an alien cul­ture.

‘‘There are fre­quent re­ports of un­scrupu­lous tac­tics by cow­boys from off­shore,’’ he said. ’’Stranded mi­grants have found they have been ripped off along the way by these cow­boys who in­form them they will have a won­der­ful life here, but ne­glect to tell them about the chal­lenges of set­tle­ment and get­ting sta­tus. It’s a racket.’’

The clinic, taken by law in­terns Louise Mei and Sam Chidgey, was al­ready on its ninth case. One case in­volved new­com­ers caught be­tween im­mi­gra­tion, Child Youth and Family and a min­is­te­rial re­quest to re­con­sider their sta­tus.

Al­ready, the clinic had man­aged to work with im­mi­gra­tion to lift a de­por­ta­tion or­der and se­cure le­gal aid to help the cou­ple through the Family Court. It was now work­ing on re­new­ing the hus­band’s work visa pend­ing the min­is­te­rial re­view.

‘‘The av­er­age Kiwi would find it ab­so­lutely per­plex­ing if the sit­u­a­tion was re­versed,’’ Muko­rom­bindo said. ’’This cou­ple tried to get help for an en­tire year and man­aged to se­cure sup­port only af­ter we set up this clinic.’’

The goal was to re­solve cases and carry them through to a hear­ing if re­quired, pro­vide rep­re­sen­ta­tion and li­aise, if nec­es­sary, with im­mi­gra­tion. The clinic is now en­gaged in ad­vo­cacy around im­mi­gra­tion law changes to come into ef­fect in July. Muko­rom­bindo said some pos­i­tives had emerged from the new leg­is­la­tion, in­clud­ing open­ing the path­way to res­i­dency for Filipinos who came for the re­build on re­new­able visas.

‘‘With in­creas­ing num­bers of stu­dents from In­dia, it may be time to look at their sit­u­a­tions more closely,’’ he said. ‘‘By pro­fil­ing more cer­tain path­ways for peo­ple be­fore they come, they should know whether they can stay per­ma­nently or sim­ply come and go as a student.’’

The clinic can be con­tacted via legal­help@can­ter­bury­busi­ or call 027 273 8815.


Can­ter­bury Busi­ness As­so­ci­a­tion ceo Taz Muko­rom­bindo with law in­tern Louise Mei.

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