On 24 February, Immigration New Zealand (INZ) announced that it has either deported or stopped nearly 200 illegal Malaysian workers from entering the country
According to Radio New Zealand (RNZ), INZ launched an investigation into construction companies in May 2017 and found that construction workers were hired by third-tier subcontractors.
The six-month long investigation, named Operation Spectrum, saw raids across construction sites in Auckland as these construction workers were previously unnoticed by developers or on site managers.
INZ's area manager for compliance and investigations, Alistair Murray also said that these workers were being paid between NZ$20 (RM57) to NZ$40 (RM115) an hour in cash.
About 105 Malaysians were caught living unlawfully in New Zealand for an average of five years, while another 85 were stopped from entering the country
According to Free Malaysia Today, one Malaysian man was also found to have been in the country for 20 years. Another 36 people fled New Zealand as well before they were caught by INZ.
NZ Herald also reported that Operation Spectrum found 15 Malaysians who reentered New Zealand under different names after being deported. This uncovered a flaw in New Zealand's border security, as the government does not know who is residing in the country.
"The ability of someone to be deported, change identity, and be back quickly is a concern, because we don't know who is here," Murray said.
NZ Herald also reported that one deportee, Adam Gan Bin Abdullah was caught obtaining permanent residency in New Zealand under his new identity.
Adam, previously known as Gan Meng Kuang, was deported from New Zealand in 2012. After marrying a Muslim woman in Malaysia, he went back to New Zealand the following year.
Adam is now sentenced to home detention for failing to declare his previous name or deportation until he was caught in Operation Spectrum.
According to Murray, illegal Malaysian workers did not have to pay tax, which costs New Zealanders job opportunities
"Legitimate Kiwi Businesses trying to contract in that market can't compete with those rates. It's not a level playing field," Murray said.
He added that Kiwis are being cut out of jobs under such practices.
National trade organisation First Union's general secretary Dennis Maga also said that these illegal workers are "basically victims of exploitation".
"Some of these labour hire companies are consciously targeting foreign workers who are willing to be paid less... and then we are also worried about their health and safety," Maga said.
Murray warned companies to keep a closer eye on who was working for them, or risk facing charges
Murray said that although companies are employing contractors on the basis of cost, they need to ensure that it is done legitimately.
"They have to ensure they have a clean supply chain and there is not a chance for these people to undercut legitimate contractors," Murray added.