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Church fined, pastor given home detention, after false immigration claims

News from Immigration NZ
A dual Samoan New Zealand pastor and his church have been sentenced on charges relating to lying to Immigration New Zealand to sponsor a Samoan police officer who was offered work as a youth pastor even though they had no money to pay him.

Faaofo Fomai and Everlasting Gospel Church in Hastings were both convicted at an earlier hearing at Hastings District Court of four charges of providing false or misleading information to an immigration officer. Today Mr Fomai was sentenced to six months’ home detention and the Church was fined $2,000.

In 2015 Mr Fomai, on behalf of the Church, offered work to Uasi Siatulau as a youth pastor and agreed to sponsor a work visa as a religious worker. Mr Fomai undertook and agreed that Mr Siatulau and his dependent children would have financial support and suitable accommodation. This undertaking was given even though Mr Fomai and his Church knew that it could not afford to employ Mr Siatulau.

Mr Siatulau and his partner were both approved work visas after Mr Fomai and the Church agreed Mr Siatulau would be paid between $1,350 and $1,400 a fortnight and they duly came to New Zealand with their four children.

The family was accommodated at Mr Fomai’s home but they were never paid and Mr Siatulau undertook unlawful seasonal work in the local orchards so he could support his family. Mr Siatulau subsequently left Mr Fomai’s house and an application for a visa to work at a horticultural contractor was declined.

In June 2016 Mr Siatulau was served with a deportation liability notice as he was in breach of his visa conditions and at that point the offending by Faaofo Fomai and Everlasting Gospel Church came to light. Mr Siatulau and his family were deported in April this year after an unsuccessful appeal to the Immigration and Protection Tribunal.

INZ Assistant General Manager, Peter Devoy, says the prosecution shows that INZ takes attempts to mislead the organisation seriously. “The overriding principle is that migrant workers have the same employment rights as all other workers in New Zealand and we will not hesitate to prosecute in cases where warranted,” Mr Devoy says.

“This sentence sends a clear message to employers that there can be consequences for providing false and misleading information to immigration officers and bringing people to work in New Zealand under false pretences.”

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