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Shining a light on the shadows – life for Tuvaluan overstayers in New Zealand

  • Dr Hoa Nguyen and David Kenkel

New research from Unitec hopes to shine a light on the dilemma of undocumented Tuvaluan overstayers living in New Zealand.

Conducted by Unitec’s School of Healthcare and Social Practices Senior Lecturers Dr Hoa Nguyen and David Kenkel, the study explored the lived experience of Tuvaluan undocumented immigrants and the impact of not having legal status, their hopes, and dreams as well as their coping mechanisms during desperate times.

It is thought there are up to 14,000 overstayers in Aotearoa/new Zealand of which about 600 are of Tuvaluan origin. The report, titled Hidden Gems - Lived Experiences of Tuvaluan Hope Seekers and Their Families in Aotearoa, details their experiences immigrating to New Zealand on valid visas, but subsequently losing the legal status that allowed them the right to work or to gain residency.

The study explored the lived experience of Tuvaluan undocumented immigrants and the impacts of not having legal status, their hopes, and dreams as well as their coping mechanisms during desperate times.

The researchers found that the undocumented migrants and overstayers are more vulnerable to exploitation and suffer from a lack of access to social benefits such as subsidised health care, welfare assistance and subsidised post high school tertiary education.

Their lack of legal status also affects their children as under 2006 legislative changes, children born in Aotearoa New Zealand to parents without citizenship or residence, are not entitled to New Zealand citizenship or residence, and suffer the same lack of access to services and risk of deportation as their parents.

The report was featured on One News in a special series by journalist Barbara Dreaver and David says that it was pleasing to see that the research has attracted strong media interest.

“It is operating as we hoped it would - to stimulate further debate and awareness about these overstayers in the broader community. Of course, what we would like to see is policy changes to help these hope seekers gain legal status.”

View Media Coverage

One News 

Radio New Zealand

Stuff

Notes

This research was conducted by the Unitec research team, which includes: Dr Hoa Thi Nguyen and David Kenkel with the assistance of the Tuvalu Auckland Community Trust.

We acknowledge funding for this project by Hon Carmel Sepuloni MP, Hon Michael Wood MP, and Hon Phil Twyford MP. Minister Phil Twyford, the Te Atatū Electorate office staff and Daniel Collins were also a great practical help in providing introductions, and a venue for our meetings. Tuapapa Rangahau, Unitec’s Research and Postgraduate Office also contributed funding to this project through the ITP Research Voucher scheme

We value the genuine support of our colleagues at the School of Healthcare and Social Practice and Tuapapa Rangahau staff. It was a privilege to be enabled to undertake this research and we profoundly hope the report can be of real and effective use for policy makers and practitioners who are interested in the lives of the Tuvaluan community of hope seekers.