Who is a New Zealander? If a person is born in India or even in New Zealand from Indian parents, at what stage do they become a New Zealander? Does the reading of Indian newspapers, watching of Indian movies or serials and listening to Indian radio stations make someone less of a New Zealander?
Well, Immigration New Zealand (INZ) would seem to think so. In correspondence sent to Sri Lankan born New Zealand Immigration Lawyer Ramya Sathiyanathan last week, INZ claimed that listeners of Radio Tarana and Radio Apna are unlikely to be New Zealanders.
The Immigration Officer’s Manager took no steps to apologise or retract the comment, instead criticised Ms Sathiyanathan for being offended.
The implications are extremely serious in that it reflects an attitude within INZ that only white English speakers can be New Zealanders.
Television New Zealand suspended broadcaster Paul Henry for his remarks (made to Prime Minister John Key during his Breakfast programme) that our then Governor General, Sir Anand Satyanand, was “not looking like a real New Zealander.”
Now the same comments are coming from government employees whose job is to determine who can stay and work in New Zealand.
Alastair McClymont, Ms Sathiyanathan’s employer at McClymont & Associates, said today that “the immigration officers comments confirmed what we had often suspected about racial bias within Immigration New Zealand, but what shocked us the most was that an officer actually thought it appropriate to put the comments in writing to an applicant.”
What came even more as a shock was INZ’s apparent support for the officer’s comments.
It is very disappointing to see such reluctance by some people to accept that a migrant’s maintenance of cultural links with their home country, through an active interest in their community’s news, music and culture somehow inhibits from their ability to be accepted as a proper New Zealander.
A quarter of Auckland’s population was born outside New Zealand and as such, we should celebrate the richness of our cultural diversity.
What is frightening however is that some government employees, tasked with making decisions about who can visit, work and live in New Zealand are still guided by prejudice about how a ‘real New Zealander’ must look, speak and live.
If Immigration officers with this level of racial prejudice are supported by their managers, are those managers supported in their decisions by our government?
Alastair McClymont is Principal of McClymont & Associates (Barristers & Solicitors) located at (Level 1), 2 Owens Road, Epsom. Phone (09) 6233344; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org .