Indian Restaurants allege discrimination

Undue Work Visa delays cause distaste

Venkat Raman – 

Owners of Indian restaurants in New Zealand are fast running out of spice, with many of them facing a bleak future with the allegation that Immigration New Zealand (INZ) is targeting them.

Many of them have complained of undue delays in processing applications for work visas- either filed by them on behalf of their employees or by migrants directly with job offers.

“Since the ‘Masala Episode’ erupted two years ago, all Indian restaurants are being painted with the same black brush. We operate an honest, healthy business, paying our employees in accordance with the laws in force. If they have the right to inspect our premises, check our records and be satisfied with our compliance. It is not fair to keep us hanging,” the owner of a popular restaurant brand, told us requesting anonymity.

He was not alone to be disappointed.

There is a growing feeling of insecurity and anxiety among Indian restaurant owners in New Zealand – at least in Auckland which accounts for not less than 300 Indian restaurants of varying sophistication, levels of service and of course quality.

The average diner is spoilt for choice and Indian cuisine has its widespread draw.

At the other end of the scale are restaurant owners who constantly flout the law, force their workers (mostly on work visas) to work long hours, pay them far less than the minimum wage and expect them to do jobs for which they have been contracted.

Posers to INZ

We wrote to INZ the following: 1. INZ is targeting Indian businesses in general and Indian Restaurants in particular, suspecting everyone as ‘Masala.’ Decisions on Visa applications are either inordinately delayed or declined 2.  Some restaurants have not had the benefit of any response- approval or denial – for their work visa applications for more than nine months 3. According to three restaurants (names supplied), they have stood down staff since their work visas have expired but applications for work visas have not been processed for the past nine or so months. 4. These restaurant owners have said that anyone from INZ, IRD or Labour Inspectorate can visit their restaurants and satisfy themselves of legality of their operations, compliance with all laws in force.

Following was response from INZ Area Manager Darren Calder:

INZ rejects any assertion that it discriminates against businesses in India.

INZ is committed to delivering the fastest possible service for visa applicants. Over the past 12 months, INZ has processed over 80% of temporary visa applications within 24 days on receipt of an application. However, as with all applications, processing times will always depend on the complexity of an application or where more information is needed.

Without specific details we are unable to comment on the allegation that an application has taken over nine months to process. We would encourage anyone with concerns on their application to talk directly to INZ.

Additional reading: Our Leader, ‘Delays spoil the taste at Indian Restaurants’ under Viewlink.

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