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Visa clampdown unfair

3 August 2006

Visa clampdown unfair to visitors from poor countries

Green Party MP Keith Locke says the significant increase in visa rejections for those seeking entry to New Zealand has little to do with terrorism. A special immigration profiling unit set up last year has turned down almost three times as many visa applications than in previous years by citizens who come from a secret list of 21 allegedly high risk countries.

"We have yet to see proof that anyone convicted for carrying out terrorist attacks, or anyone legitimately suspected of terrorist intentions, has ever tried to enter New Zealand," Mr Locke says.

"What MPs like me are finding is more complaints from New Zealanders that the Immigration Profiling Group is stopping their mother, father, brother or sister from coming for a visit. The people having the hardest time getting a visitor visa are those from the Middle East, South Asia and Africa. For example, visitor visa approvals for Iraqis dropped from 214 in 2004/05 to 92 in 2005/06, for Zimbabweans from 924 to 306, for Burmese from 116 to 72 and for Somalians from 112 to 45.

"In one case, the mother of a New Zealander of Iraqi origin was denied the right to visit her daughter and grandchildren, on the grounds that she was unlikely to go back to Iraq because their was a war on. This was despite the fact that she had visited, without any problems, back in 1998, when the country was subject to severe UN sanctions.

"I also have a complaint from a Zimbabwean New Zealand resident about her brother being denied the right to visit her. The only particular ground given was 'the general inability of Zimbabwe citizens to be removed to Zimbabwe, should they become liable for removal from New Zealand.'

"One highly paid Pakistani businessman is being denied entry to visit his sister because, although he has travelled widely in the Middle East and South Asia, he had 'no record of having previously travelled to a western country.'".

"National MPs, who are raising the terrorism bogey, must know from their own constituency work, the injustice being done to many New Zealanders, whose family members are stopped from coming here. In January National MP Maurice Williamson raised the case of an elderly Baghdad couple refused permission to visit their sick son in Auckland [Sunday Star Times, January 8]

"There needs to be a serious inquiry into the vetting procedures of the Immigration Profiling Group, because its work is proving to be prejudicial and overly restrictive criteria are causing great sadness in many New Zealand families," said Mr Locke.

ENDS

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