28 July 2008

NZ plans for biometrics to monitor immigration

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Immigration New Zealand is planning major changes to the border security this year, allowing border control staff to conduct biometric checks on inbound and outbound passengers, reports the Sunday Star Times.

If the new changes to the immigration bill are implemented, border security will be able to check the identity of any person entering or leaving the country using iris and fingerprint checks. 

There has been some concern that the amendments to the bill will threaten civil rights, particularly from Amnesty International.  However, National Party spokesman Dr Lockwood Smith said the benefits to New Zealanders (in terms of passenger processing and homeland security) far outweigh concerns about passenger confidentiality.

He also added if his party comes into power it will reform the immigration department, so that instead of being a part of the Department of Labour, the department will work under its own Immigration Ministry, which will be run by a head of immigration and not a chief executive. 

"A new management culture is required, and I question whether that can be achieved while the immigration service is just a section of the Department of Labour", he told reporters at an immigration law conference recently. 

The National Party also promised it would work to attract thousands of migrant New Zealanders back to New Zealand to ease skills shortages, instead of recruiting overseas workers from other nations. 

"An estimated 800,000 Kiwis live abroad and it’s been reckoned that we lose 32 per cent of our tertiary-trained workforce," he added.

The New Zealand Government’s policy currently focuses on recruiting highly skilled and lower skilled migrants to meet the needs of the labour market.  Every year, thousands of overseas workers, particularly from the UK, Australia and the Pacific, move to New Zealand on working visas.  Recent changes to the skilled migration program means that more highly skilled workers will now be granted visas for New Zealand, particularly in the IT industry. 

The New Zealand Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people emigrate to New Zealand.

Article by Jessica Bird, New Zealand Visa Bureau.

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