Iain Lees-Galloway denies accusations Govt is cutting immigration numbers

Newstalk ZB ,
Publish Date
Thursday, 14 March 2019, 8:06a.m.
Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway.

The Immigration Minister has denied accusations that the Government is reducing immigration numbers, saying the numbers haven't dropped.

Figures show that the Government has been issuing 600 fewer residence visas per month, with allegations that Iain Lees-Galloway has ordered his officials to crack down.

National had a limit of 95,000 residence visas to be granted over two years - an average of 4000 a month. Under the current Government, that number is down to 60,000 over 18 months, about 600 less per month.

However, Iain Lees-Galloway told Mike Hosking the numbers haven't actually dropped.

"The Government sets a planning range for how many residency visas will be issued over a period of time, but it's not a hard and fast target."

"We have set a transitionary planning range that is based on actual residency approvals. So when you say the numbers have dropped, that's not actually true," he said.

"The previous Government had some targets but it wasn't actually meeting those targets and the actual practice is reflected in the new planning range that we have put in place."

The number of skilled migrants has fallen under this Government, with family and refugee numbers increasing.

However, Lees-Galloway said they are prioritising skilled migrants.

"Overall numbers in the mix of visas didn't meet the previous Government's targets basically because of policy changes they made, such as increasing the number of points that someone has to reach before they can apply for a skilled migrant visa."

"We are moving towards a smarter approach that will set a planning range for each residency stream. That will allow us to place greater priority on skilled migrants."

"So nothing has changed, these numbers in our planning range reflect actual practice," he said.

When asked whether a deliberate shift of focus from skilled migrants to humanitarian visas was behind the drop, the Immigration Minister said, "not at all".

"I can appreciate why those numbers look concerning because those numbers refelct what is actually happening. Regardless of what the previous Government's targets were, that's not what was happening at all [and] these numbers were a better reflection of what i currently happening."

He said this is an "interim phase" and the Government is planning to move to a system which will allow them to increase the number of skilled migrants.


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