Immigration New Zealand officers now have a range of new powers to search people and detain them if they are trying to enter the country illegally.
‘Compliance officers now have increased powers to search at the border, and the ability to detain people liable for deportation for a limited period of time,’ said Immigration Minister Nathan Guy.
They also have the power to obtain biometric information like fingerprints, and greater access to the records of education providers.
‘These changes will allow immigration officers to effectively enforce the Immigration Act and reduce their reliance on other agencies like the Police. It gives them similar powers to agencies like New Zealand Customs and Fisheries officers,’ explained Guy.
‘I’ve seen for myself the rigorous training that officers have undergone at the Royal New Zealand Police College in preparation for the introduction of these new powers. This has included methods of safe detention, driver training, risk and conflict management, and first aid,’ he said.
‘This will allow officers to act quickly on information they receive to deport people who are in the country illegally,’ he added.
Last year the Compliance Operations team undertook 843 site visits to horticultural areas, educational institutes, workplaces and residential addresses to ensure the Immigration Act is being followed. They also assisted with 1,410 voluntary departures, served 1,332 deportation liability notices and affected 742 deportations in the year 2011/2012.
Meanwhile, Argentina’s largest airline has been fined $18,000 for failing to comply with its obligations under the Immigration Act 2009 in respect of two Chinese nationals and one Tongan national who boarded flights from Sydney to Auckland in March and November last year.
Aerolineas Argentinas pleaded guilty to three charges under the Immigration Act 2009 for failing to provide passenger details to Immigration New Zealand (INZ), allowing a passenger to travel without a visa and ignoring a directive issued by INZ not to board a passenger.
INZ General Manager Peter Elms says airlines have a responsibility to meet their obligations under the Act to maintain the integrity of New Zealand’s immigration system.
‘Passenger information is required to be submitted by an airline under the Immigration Act which enables Immigration to identify and risk assess the individual before confirming their eligibility to enter New Zealand. Our border systems are designed to prevent those ineligible for entry from being allowed to board aircraft offshore, well away from New Zealand’s borders. Upon receiving the passenger information at check in we provide the airline with a direction on whether they can allow the passenger to board or not. In this case that information was not submitted by the airline,’ he explained.
‘This is a serious issue, because there are significant risks involved in people entering New Zealand when they should not have been allowed to travel here. This fine should send a message to the airline industry that there will be consequences when proper passenger clearance process is not followed,’ he added.
A new infringement regime took effect in July this year, enabling infringement notices to be issued for breaches of airlines’ obligations, instead of breaches being subject to court prosecution only. INZ has been working closely with airlines to ensure they have the systems in place to achieve compliance with the requirements.