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RRC Applauds Customs Willingness To Learn

Joint media release from the
Office of the Race Relations Conciliator and
New Zealand Customs Service

For immediate use November 30, 2001

Race Relations Conciliator Applauds Customs Willingness To Learn.

Race Relations Conciliator Gregory Fortuin says media reports implying that Customs officers are searching travellers on the basis of their race are misleading.

Both Mr Fortuin and the Customs Service are concerned at the reports.

Mr Fortuin says while his office did receive a number of complaints before September 11 about Customs stopping people because of their country of origin, the complaints were not pursued.

Mr Fortuin says in his annual report that Customs, along with a number of other government agencies, responded positively to training provided by his office. He believes that Customs now have a good understanding of the importance of not infringing individual liberties.

Customs National Air and Marine Manager John Secker says Customs uses a system of profiling to identify people arriving in New Zealand who may be a risk for a number of reasons.

“A profile, for example of a potential terrorist, is made up of a number of factors, one of which is their country of origin. Appearance and race do not come in to it.

“A profile is a basis for deciding who Customs may need to talk to. Not everyone who fits a particular profile will automatically be searched. Customs officers have to have due cause to suspect before searching a person.

“However if a person fits a profile of a potential terrorist, then it is our duty to interact with them. I am sure in the current climate New Zealanders would not want a person arriving from a trouble spot, who fits a particular criteria, to walk into this country without any interaction with a Customs officer.

“Customs is conscious of the need to balance its responsibility to protect New Zealand with respect for individual rights. We have discussed this with the Race Relations Conciliator in the past and appreciate the training his office has provided for our staff.

“We will continue to monitor this area closely and work with the Office of the Race Relations Conciliator to respond to any concerns.”

Ends

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