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Stories

Immigration review will stop bogus appeals - Winston Peters (30 January 2006)

Property values bigger worry than terrorism (2 December 2005) 

Immigration scam uncovered (18 November 2005)

Former Minister accused of fraud (15 November 2005) 

Campaign to lure Kiwi expats home (2 November 2005)

Businesses and infrastructure move to beat bird flu (21 October 2005) 


Immigration review will stop bogus appeals - Winston Peters (30 January 2006)

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters says he is confident a review of immigration laws will stop bogus refugee appeals.

Mr Peters' comments followed news that Amer Al-Khashali, a former minister in the government of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, would appeal the decision denying him refugee status in New Zealand.

His lawyer said part of his appeal argument, that publicity around the case, caused by Mr Peters naming his client in Parliament, had reached Iraq and made his client a target.

Mr Peters, now Foreign Minister, has said the argument is "legalistic nonsense" and that Mr Al-Khashali will "waste taxpayers' money and waste tribunal time" before being told to leave.

Today he said he was confident that a review of immigration laws -- part of NZ First's support agreement with Labour -- would stop unworthy asylum seekers delaying their removal for years through endless appeals.

"The processes we have are now subject to a substantial review ... and this is one of the reasons we need to have a review and get this issue sorted out properly," he said on Radio Live.

"What I would say to some lawyers is that the days of carrying on with all sorts of legal processes at the cost of the New Zealand taxpayer without any merit to your case, those days are soon to be over."

Mr Al-Khashali, a 69-year-old former Iraqi agriculture minister, is awaiting the result of the Refugee Status Appeals Authority's October hearing into his claim, the Sunday Star Times reported yesterday.

He is also appealing for the reinstatement of his visitor's permit, revoked after Mr Peters named him in Parliament last year.

A discussion document on the review of immigration laws will be released in March. NZPA

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Property values bigger worry than terrorism (2 December 2005) 
 
A plea from diplomats for beefed up security around the Russian embassy in Wellington is likely to fail after local residents said they were more worried about plummeting property values than terrorist attacks.

Addressing a Wellington City Council committee meeting yesterday, Karori residents Rebecca Meads, Charlotte Morgan and Brian Belworthy -- representing nine households -- said plans to restrict parking opposite the embassy were "a nonsense".

A fence around the property, which backed on to reservoir land, was so low it could be scaled by children, and the embassy had no security guard.

A Government request to remove six car parks opposite the entrance was unlikely to deter international terrorists -- but would have a big impact on locals, forcing them to carry groceries further, affecting property values and creating problems for builders and other tradespeople working on their homes, they said.

Diplomatic Protection Squad boss Inspector Bruce Blayney had earlier explained that moves to have parking restricted opposite the driveway to the Russian embassy, and in Halswell St, near the American embassy in Thorndon, were prompted by heightened security fears.

Terrorist cells were known to be operating in New Zealand with staff at those embassies most at risk, either from "extreme religious terrorists or Chechnyan organisations", he said.

Car bombs were the preferred method of terrorism used by international groups and there was potential for their use here.

Asked by councillor Bryan Pepperell to rate New Zealand's risk of a terrorist attack, Mr Blayney said it could be seen as an easy target. "We can't ignore the fact we're part of the world...we can't write it off."

Peter Gilberd, representing the Royal Society, which has premises in Halswell St, thought the scenario was "a little bit fantastic".

While authorities wanted to ban parking across the road from the Russian embassy, it was still allowed in places opposite the US embassy. Not having a few cars parked at the "back side" of the US embassy would hardly alter security there.

Councillors, though sympathetic, rejected the police request, saying they had agreed to restrict parking outside the front entrances to the Italian and Australian embassies last year after similar requests but were not prepared to "ring fence" the entire diplomatic community.

Robert Armstrong, the only councillor to support the ban, said their opposition sent a "wrong and sad" message. Wellington was the capital city and should look after its "international residents" as it did its locals.

"We're all aware of the threats...I don't want to have to be here a year from now with blood on my hands."

A final decision will be made later this month. NZPA

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Immigration scam uncovered (18 November 2005)

A large number of people have been duped by an immigration scam being run out of Hastings.

A tip-off has led Hastings police to uncover a major immigration scam yesterday. The operation involved Pacific Island overstayers or those with visas that are about to expire, who were told they could get residency fast-tracked for $500.
   
Detective Senior Sergeant Sam Aberahama says police visited a residential address, where they were confronted by more than 50 Pacific Islanders.  He says a huge amount of documentation was seized, including 50 passports.
Mr Aberahama says 30 of those passports have been handed on to the Immigration Service.

Police are keen to hear from anyone who has seen 24-year-old Fakanonoa Fonua, who they believe masterminded the operation. 

Detective Senior Sergeant Aberahama was unwilling to comment on the amount of money that had already changed hands, but says there were numerous registrations. NZPA


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Former Minister accused of fraud (15 November 2005) 

Former immigration minister Tuariki Delamere used a "money-go- round" to fraudulently secure residency for seven Chinese nationals, a court was told yesterday.
   
The man once hailed as Parliament's rising star appeared at a depositions hearing in the Auckland District Court facing seven counts of intending to defraud by use of a document for pecuniary advantage, and three counts of forgery.
   
The charges, brought against him by the Serious Fraud Office, allege Delamere falsely conveyed to the Immigration Service that clients of his Auckland-based consultancy had invested at least $1 million of their own money in New Zealand, allowing them to qualify for residency under the business migration category. Delamere oversaw the introduction of the category when he was the minister of immigration.
   
The Crown alleges the money never came from his clients.  Instead, the $1 million was contributed by a Chinese national and used seven times for seven different applicants.   The Chinese man, in return, would take a 37 per cent share in Delamere's commission, which ranged between $80,000 and $100,000.  But Delamere said he has not broken any laws, and it boiled down to a matter of legal interpretation. The week-long hearing will decide whether the matter will go to trial.
  
The Crown describes the workings of Delamere's plan as a "money- go-round".  The Chinese national's money would be sent out to a Hong Kong bank account before being transferred back to a holding company set up by Delamere and the Chinese man, whose name is suppressed.  The details of the transfer would appear under the name of Delamere's client.  Once conditional residency was granted, the money would be transferred out and the process repeated.
   
The Crown alleges the offences took place between September 2001 and November 2003. It also alleges Delamere forged documents when applying to convert his clients' provisional residency into an indefinite returning resident's visa. To qualify, his clients would need to prove that they had invested at least $1 million continuously for at least two years.
   
The Crown said for four out of his seven clients, Delamere had submitted documents to deliberately mislead the Immigration Service that the requirements had been met and the funds worth $7 million existed.
   
The court heard from Delamere's Chinese business partner as a Crown witness. The man, 36, said he had first met Delamere after applying for New Zealand residency through a Chinese consultant who worked with Delamere's firm. NZPA

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Campaign to lure Kiwi expats home (2 November 2005)

The Government has launched an $850,000 campaign aimed at luring expatriate Kiwis home to fill skill shortages.

Immigration Minister David Cunliffe unveiled the campaign yesterday. It begins with a website aimed at expats, called newzealandnow.info, and an advertising campaign in Britain.
   
More than 460,000 Kiwis were living overseas and many were unaware of how much New Zealand had changed in recent years, he said. Skills and labour shortages and low unemployment were the main reasons for the campaign.
   
Labour Department communications and marketing director Richard Ninness said the programme's budget this financial year was about $850,000 and about $1 million in the next two years.  It also included posters in the London Underground, advertisements on websites and in news media, he said.  New Zealand House in London was lit up with the phrase "New Zealand Now" yesterday to kick off the campaign.  The programme would also include a trial of videoconferencing facilities to connect New Zealand employers with potential employees in London.  The next target for the campaign would be Australia.
   
Labour Department workforce deputy secretary Mary Anne Thompson said it was also investigating ways to facilitate the immigration process for partners and children of returning Kiwis.
   
National Party immigration spokesman Lockwood Smith said the initiative was a positive move, but it needed to be supported by "policy developments to make New Zealand a more attractive place to skilled people".  The fact that New Zealand was a highly taxed country could put people off returning home, he said. NZPA

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Businesses and infrastructure move to beat bird flu (21 October 2005) 

New Zealand's borders could be closed indefinitely within hours in the event of a worldwide bird flu pandemic, the Ministry of Economic Development (MED) says. 

Under the worst case scenario, based on the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, 33,000 could die in eight weeks.   

So far, 67 people worldwide are known to have died from the H5N1 avian influenza virus.  At present, it can only be caught from birds -- but scientists fear it may mutate in the same way the Spanish influenza virus did, and be transmitted human-to-human.  In a flu pandemic planning kit released by MED yesterday, infrastructure providers and businesses were warned to prepare for the loss of up to 60 percent of the workforce for between two and four weeks.

Government planning for a pandemic has been accelerated since the World Health Organisation warned the risk from avian influenza becoming the next human flu pandemic was high. Biosecurity New Zealand's senior science adviser Dr Susan Cork said the agency had been monitoring migratory birds for the virus for some years but had not found any evidence of it.  "We have been on the lookout ... but we haven't found any evidence of H591 or any other highly pathogenic avian influenza in those birds," she told National Radio this morning.  She said New Zealand was fortunate in that it did not attract migratory waterfowl, which were spreading the virus from Asia to Europe.
"That's the reason we haven't had an outbreak here yet." Vets around the country were testing poultry and centralised testing should begin soon, she said. NZPA

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