03 August 2006

New Zealand rejecting high risk applicants

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New Zealand rejected almost three times as many visa applications from 'high risk' countries over the last year compared to previous years, the Government has revealed.

The Immigration Profiling Group was established 18 months ago to vet immigrant applications from a secret list of 21 countries, whose nationals are deemed to represent a high risk to security in New Zealand, and almost a quarter of applications from these countries are currently being declined.

Previously the refusal rate was 9%, but the political row over revelation that a former Iraqi minister from Saddam Hussein's regime was living in New Zealand, led to the profiling group's inception.

10,000 applications from high risk countries are now being dealt with by New Zealand immigation officials every year.

As well as vetting new applicants, the screening group has also been sifting through files going back several years.

Immigration minister David Cunliffe confirmed that some visas had been withdrawn as a result of screening.

"We've found some, and we've dealt with those," he said on New Zealand National Radio.

Investigations found that some immigrants already in the country had entered on fraudulent grounds and measure had been taken to expel them.

Applicants from high risk countries who have specialist skills which could be used to make weapons of mass destruction or terrorism were being closely scrutinised the minister revealed.

Meanwhile, opposition MP's have criticised the clampdown for separating legitimate applicants from family already resident in New Zealand.

Green Party MP Keith Locke said the people finding it hardest to obtain a visa were from the Middle East, South Asia and Africa, revealing huge drops in the number of visa approvals for Iraqis, Zimbabweans, Burmese and Somalians.

"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 said.

"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."


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