Too many Pacific people being duped by unlicensed immigration advisors

Pacific peoples are some of the most vulnerable when it comes to paying for and following unlawful immigration advice

Over the past 10 years, the Immigration Advisers Authority has prosecuted 16 unlicensed immigration advisers and 10 of those prosecutions have involved Pacific victims.

IAA Registrar Catherine Albiston says it's still an area of huge concern for them and they're working hard to continue to raise awareness for Pacific families. 

"It's not okay to give immigration advice if you're not a licensed adviser and you're not exempt and people need to be really careful if someone's offering them immigration advice and they're not licensed or exempt," she says.

"We really just want to get the message out there that people need to use licensed immigration advisers or exempt people if they want to get help with their immigration matters."

But Tongan immigration adviser and community leader Salote Heletā Lilo says some of the onus has to fall on people who continue to seek advice from so-called professional advisers and lose thousands of dollars in the process.

"They go to those [unlicensed] people, got stuck there and then they come to me."

She says most clients go to unlicensed or non-exempt advisers because of 'close' family links or a cheaper quote for services. 

"The sad part about it is when those unlicensed people damage the case for their clients."

Lilo has been in her profession for over 20 years. She deals with Pacific people, mostly Tongans, as well as Indians and Chinese people.

She says fear of deportation is not to be blamed for clients seeking unlawful advice, even though most of her clients are overstayers.

"That's not the problem... I don't think people don't come to us because they are in fear, no."

Lilo says it's good that authorities have cracked down on the problem but more could still be done.

"From nowadays it's much better than 10 years ago," she says. "Even though there are still people giving illegal advice, it has decreased."

"They [immigration] still need to do a lot of informing... pamphlets in different languages et cetera."