Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters said today the Coalition Government told foreigners at the start of the Covid-19 crisis that if their circumstances had changed dramatically, they should go home.
"And 50,000 did," Mr Peters said.
Official advice to Cabinet revealed there is potentially 380,000 foreigners and migrant workers in New Zealand, but that "repatriation of foreign nationals at such a scale is unlikely to be possible" and they would have to shelter in place in New Zealand.
Mr Peters said Civil Defence had "done their best" to help them out.
"But that said, if you're here with no long-term legal authority or right to be here then perhaps you should go home."
The Deputy Prime Minister said he would consider helping migrants pay to go home because it would cost "a whole lot less than having them here year after year" supported by the New Zealand taxpayer.
"How many people do you think a population of just under five million could support in this crisis?
"When your destiny was in your own hands and you chose not to take that pathway, what do you think obligations are of the New Zealand people?"
When asked by reporters whether the migrant workers were in New Zealand because we'd invited them here to work, the NZ First leader said: "Well actually they came of their own volition, we did not move them compulsorily."