Minister releases report

  • Lianne Dalziel
Immigration

Immigration Minister Lianne Dalziel is today releasing a report into the attempted removal of a 21-year-old Samoan woman and her 10-year-old cousin.

Lianne Dalziel said the report highlighted gross inaccuracies in the New Zealand Herald article (11 June 2001) which reported on the attempted removal of Seneuefa Tilo, 21, and Cristine Tilo, aged 10.

1. The article quoted lawyer Alex Hope as saying that Cristine was taken screaming from a Hamilton house.

"Wrong. At no time was Cristine taken screaming from the house – in fact, she remained at the house with an adult, after Seneuefa had been taken to the police station for her interview. She was later placed into Child Youth and Family Services care until she was taken to meet up with Seneuefa for the journey to Auckland Airport at about 3.30pm. She shed a few tears when bidding farewell to relatives – an entirely normal reaction to the situation," the Minister said.

"The allegation that she was taken screaming from her home is totally false."

2. The newspaper claimed that Cristine was placed in a police cell.

"Wrong. She was NEVER put in a police cell – she remained at the house until she could be placed into Child, Youth and Family Service care. She then travelled to the Hamilton Police Station, where Seneuefa was picked up and they said their goodbyes to family. Both Seneuefa and Cristine were taken to the Auckland Airport police base where they were kept in the waiting room."

3. The article claimed that the NZIS did not make inquiries into the arrangements for Cristine's care in Samoa

"Wrong. The NZIS asked Seneuefa where they would live in Samoa, and she said they would return to an aunt and uncle with whom the pair had lived with for four years until they left for New Zealand."

There are other points, which are worth making in relation to this removal attempt.

* Information provided by Seneuefa in her application to extend her visit to New Zealand, stated that Cristine was visiting New Zealand as her dependent.
* Cristine's relatives initially did not provide evidence of her adoptive parents in New Zealand. This was provided later.
* During the six months that Seneuefa and Cristine were in New Zealand, neither of them sought residence on the basis of their family connections. Cristine's adoptive parents never applied to have Cristine recognised as a member of their family by applying for residence on her behalf.
* NZIS had already decided not to remove Cristine, before the High Court injunction that also stopped the removal of Seneuefa.

"It's easy to second-guess decisions after they are made with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. However, the production of the Samoan adoption certificate would probably have halted the process, if there had been an explanation from the adoptive parents as to why they had left Cristine in Samoa four years before and, why she travelled to New Zealand as Seneuefa's dependent.

"None of this would have halted Seneuefa's removal.

"I am satisfied with the report. I believe we've come a long way to improve the relationship between the Service and the Pacific communities. In fact, two days before this incident, we formalised this with the hand over of the Pacific Strategy, which was developed over 12 months, to the NZIS management.

"I am very disappointed that Mr Hope passed on unsubstantiated information which the Herald should have checked. I am also disappointed that the Herald presented a story that caused unnecessary concern among the Samoan community. In the interests of presenting a fair and balanced report of this matter, I look forward to the Herald's correction of its original story."