Government Clamps Down on Immigration Scams

  • Max Bradford

The Coalition Government will introduce legislation this year to tighten up on immigration scams, Immigration Minister Max Bradford said today.

Releasing a series of briefing papers, Mr Bradford said the papers showed the Government was carefully considering how to streamline determination processes for asylum seekers.

"This is important because it will make our system less open to exploitation and will provide quicker decisions and more certainty for those genuinely in need of refuge in New Zealand," he said.

"We need processes which encourage and facilitate legitimate visitors and new migrants, give certainty to genuine asylum seekers and refugees through a prompt, fair system, and allow for the quick removal of people unlawfully in New Zealand.

"The vast majority of asylum claims have not been genuine, yet at present it can take some years to finally determine a case. This is not at all satisfactory for genuine claimants, nor to New Zealand taxpayers who are meeting the costs of those who abuse our system."

Mr Bradford said the latest figures showed that about 2,670 people claimed asylum in New Zealand last year - more than four times the number five years ago.

The cost to taxpayers for each asylum seeker is estimated at about $25,000. "This means the cost of last year's claims alone is in the region of $67 million, and that is almost certainly an understatement," Mr Bradford said.

He said the changes to immigration legislation included consideration of how New Zealand would cope with the arrival of a large group of illegal immigrants.

"Although New Zealand is geographically isolated, and large group arrivals of illegal immigrants are unlikely, the possibility must be considered within the context of our overall immigration legislation," he said.

The immediate cost to New Zealand of, for example, a boat of 50 illegal immigrants was estimated at about $1 million.

As announced late last year, The Coalition Government will be introducing a number of improvements to current immigration processes to achieve:

better screening of potential travellers to New Zealand a better process for removing people who are unlawfully in New Zealand a more rational immigration appeal system a faster process for deciding on refugee status applications

Mr Bradford said that in order to achieve these improvements, decisions to date included:

  • there should be flexibility for charging immigration fees
  • an instant fine system for airlines bringing people to New Zealand
  • without the proper documentation (passports and visas) is being be explored further
  • a statutory obligation to be placed on visitors to leave New Zealand when their immigration permit expires
  • the time period for lodging appeals against removal will be cut from 42 days to 28 days
  • the time period for lodging judicial reviews on immigration decisions will also be limited to a 28 day period
  • the time period for lodging appeals against a decision not to grant refugee status will be reduced from 21 to 5 days
  • the maximum period of detention of illegal immigrants may be extended (it is currently 28 days)
  • legal aid may be extended to asylum seekers at the initial determination stage (legal aid is currently only available for applicants appealing to the Refugee Status Appeals Authority)
  • people on temporary permits or who have overstayed their permit will not be eligible for legal aid in relation to immigration matters

"We need immigration policies which deliver certainty for everyone - migrants, refugees and New Zealanders," Mr Bradford said.

"We are also sending a clear message that New Zealand is not a soft touch for those who seek to exploit our immigration system."