Pinoy nurses warned of ‘English language’ scam in NZ

Migrants’ advocacy group Migrante-Aotearoa on Friday warned Filipino nurses planning to work in New Zealand not to fall for a purported English-language proficiency program that’s actually a scam which drives many nurses into debt as their families sell assets at home just to pay for “exorbitant” tuition and recruitment fees.

The scam involves certain recruitment agencies luring nurses with the promise that by undergoing the English language program, they will have a better chance of meeting the English proficiency level required by the Nursing Council of New Zealand.

These agencies further claim that while undergoing the program, nurses may work part-time, or up to 20 hours per week, as healthcare assistants in nursing homes in New Zealand, with which these agencies supposedly have established connections.

Nurses who come to the country through the program, however, have reported it is difficult for them to find jobs especially in Christchurch, Auckland and Wellington, which all prioritize the hiring of locals.

“The English study scheme has turned out to be a pathway for many Filipino nurses to become heavily indebted migrant professionals who can only get jobs as caregivers in rest-homes rather than nurses in hospitals in New Zealand,” Migrante-Aotearoa national coordinator Dennis Maga said in an article posted on the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines news site.

According to Maga, nurses become frustrated as they can hardly pay for the hefty loans they incurred to be able to come to New Zealand, only to end up working 20 hours a week as caregivers and receiving barely-above minimum pay.

The migrant nurses also eke out just enough to pay for very high housing and living costs there, the group added, on top of the average of NZ$12,000 (P372,000) payment for the study course.

Maga clarified that the scheme is not new, adding the New Zealand Nurses’ Organization (NZNO) had already cautioned about these English study schemes as early as 2008.

Yet, he said hundreds of Filipino nurses remain enticed with the scheme, and have paid thousands of dollars to these colleges and recruitment agencies.

“Most of them are landed—and trapped—to low-paying care-giving work,” he said, adding that most of the schemers promise their victims high-paying jobs in Christchurch hospitals.

Christchurch was hit last month by a magnitude-6.3 earthquake, killing over 140 people including Filipinos. To date, the bodies of eight Filipino victims have been retrieved, while three others remain missing. (See: New Zealand cops identify 8th Pinoy fatality in quake)

Citing the NZNO report, Maga said most of the recruited nurses were promised a salary of NZ$50,000 (about P1.6 million) for being a nurse.

But once they arrive in New Zealand, they are only paid around NZ$30,000, or a $20,000 drop from the original offer.

What concerns the NZNO more is that these colleges are conniving with overseas recruitment agencies to bring the nurses into their trap, he said.

“In 2008 the New Zealand Herald also reported that Filipino nurses were brought in to New Zealand on student visas by private English language schools and trained solely for aged care, instead of doing bridging courses to become registered nurses. Students were encouraged to take a 24-week English course, at a cost of more than $8,000, aimed at getting their nursing registration,” Maga said.

Migrante Aotearoa urged the Philippine and New Zealand governments to probe deeply into this scheme, and called on other victims of the scam to report their cases through — With Jerrie M. Abella/JV, GMA News

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