Eight foreign workers, allowed into New Zealand under a government scheme, will be deported after being caught working illegally.

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) and police conducted a joint operation in Northland, and took seven Thai nationals and one Malaysian into custody.

They had originally come to New Zealand as part of the Recognised Seasonal Employers (RSE) scheme, which allows employers in the horticulture and viticulture industries to hire foreigners if enough New Zealand citizens or residents can't be found to plant, maintain, harvest and pack crops.

"The RSE scheme has been extremely successful but ensuring that all employers operate within the law is an important and necessary factor in its success," said INZ Compliance Branch Manager, Dean Blakemore.


INZ is making enquiries with the employers to determine if there were any breaches of immigration and employment law.

Employers hiring migrants who are not lawfully entitled to work for them can be prosecuted, and, if convicted, face a penalty of up to $50,000.

"We hope that this will be a warning to employers that they must make basic checks on seasonal workers before they employ them. It is also a warning to people who do not comply with their visa conditions; they are vulnerable to exploitation by unscrupulous employers," said Mr Blakemore.

INZ is urging people who are working in breach of their visas to come forward and discuss their individual circumstances, by ringing the INZ's freephone number 0508 55 88 55.

The eight workers are in custody in Whangarei pending deportation.