• Max Bradford

The Coalition Government is committed to an immigration policy which contributes to the New Zealand economy and society, treats genuine residency applicants and asylum seekers fairly and quickly, but will not tolerate abuses, Immigration Minister Max Bradford said today.

As announced earlier this month, Mr Bradford said the Government is putting an extra $23 million over three years into combating immigration scams.

"The extra funding will mean faster processing of asylum seeker applications, speed up the removal of people who abuse the system, and give more certainty to genuine refugees," Mr Bradford said.

"Those who abuse New Zealand's humanitarian commitment to refugees will spend far less time on a social welfare benefit, or tie up New Zealand's legal system at significant expense.

"If you can stay, you'll know quickly. If you have to go, you'll go quicker."

Mr Bradford said that in the past three years there had been a 300 per cent increase in the number of people seeking asylum in New Zealand. A large majority of the cases were not genuine.

"Indeed, more than 70% of asylum seekers are not considered genuine.

"The effect of this huge increase in people claiming asylum has been to clog the processing system and increase welfare payments as a result," he said.

"By injecting money now to clear the backlog of applications and to provide a faster system for processing new applications and appeals, the Government expects to save money in the longer term."

The extra $23 million is made up of:

$3 million to reduce the backlog of asylum seeker claims and process new claims;

$10 million to speed up appeals related to asylum claims and against removal;

$10 million to cover the legal costs associated with judicial reviews in asylum seeker cases and for the removal of those who do not gain refugee status.

Mr Bradford said the extra funding for immigration also included $225,000 for the current financial year to cover increased legal and removal costs for people unlawfully in New Zealand. An additional $185,000 over two years is to cover immigration-related costs for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Forum, to be held in New Zealand in 1999.

"These measures are consistent with the outcome of the successful Coalition Government Population Conference last year," Mr Bradford said.