Wellington, Oct 16 :
An official of the immigration department in New Zealand has sparked off a race row by saying that people who listen to Indian radio are unlikely to be New Zealanders.
Immigration lawyer Ramya Sathiyanathan has lodged a complaint with the country’s race relations conciliator.
“I was shocked when I got an email from the officer with regard to a visa application for a job which a client had been offered,” New Zealand Herald quoted Sathiyanathan as saying.
A beauty therapist’s position had been advertised in the New Zealand Herald, Winz and with Indian station Radio Tarana.
The immigration officer said she was not satisfied that the employer, who supported the visa application, had made genuine attempts to recruit New Zealand workers.
The application was undecided and one of the reasons she gave was: “New Zealand citizens or residents are unlikely to listen to an Indian radio station.”
Sathiyanathan is originally from Sri Lanka.
Immigration area manager Michael Carley said the remark was made in the context of the employer having to prove they had made genuine attempts to recruit New Zealanders for the job of beauty therapist before offering the position to a migrant.
Carley said the comment was made in an initial assessment of the essential skills work visa application.
“INZ (Immigration New Zealand) completely rejects any assertion that any of its immigration officers display any racial basis in their decision making, but apologises to anyone who took offence about the comment made,” Carley said.
Immigration specialist lawyer Alastair McClymont, who is Sathiyanathan’s employer, said the reason the advertisement was on Indian radio was because the advertised position was for a specialist Indian beauty therapist.
“The treatment procedures used are not taught in New Zealand beauty therapy schools,” McClymont said.