Immigration Minister clamping down on refugee scams

  • Max Bradford

Immigration Minister Max Bradford is taking steps to stop prevent non-genuine asylum seekers exploiting the refugee status application and appeal system.

Since 1993 only 28 per cent of claims for refugee status have been assessed as genuine, Mr Bradford told Amnesty International New Zealand's annual general meeting in Auckland today (subs: Saturday).

Meanwhile, numbers of asylum seekers had risen dramatically from 347 in 1993 to 1310 last year.

"Those numbers are in addition to the 800 refugees referred each year under the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees quota," Mr Bradford said.

New Zealand would not turn away genuine asylum seekers who came seeking refuge from persecution in their own countries.

"But even the UNHCR acknowledges the problems cause by the mixture of genuine refugees and of people escaping from economic hardship."

Mr Bradford said he was referring to people who arrived to claim refugee status when in fact they were simply seeking a life in New Zealand which they perceived to be better than their own.

"The non-genuine applicants deny genuine refugees the chance to enter because we must have regard to the overall numbers of immigrants each year, whatever scheme they may be sourced from."

Furthermore, the current procedures allowed rejected applicants to make repeated appeals for different reasons, to a number of different authorities.

"In a worst case scenario a person can deliberately exploit the appeals system to remain in New Zealand for up to six years... costing taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars each year."

It was believed New Zealand may be a target for non-genuine asylum seekers on the basis that it would take a number of years before removal.

Mr Bradford said he intended to radically reduce the amount of time it took to process refugee status applications and appeals, and tighten up procedures so that it did not allow consultants, lawyers and would-be refugees to exploit the system and recycle appeals through a variety of avenues.

"We must discourage the so-called economic refugees who are clogging the system, costing taxpayers and making life harder for those who really do need our help - the real refugees."