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Op-Ed: Illegal immigration rife in region

Immigration fraud is on the rise almost throughout the South Pacific region.

Instances of people using new and creative methods to illegally turn up on the shores of several nations in the South Pacific—including New Zealand and Australia—are being recorded with more frequency than ever before. While immigration fraud has been going on for sometime now, it has become more brazen in recent years.

Last month, the media in New Zealand were awash with reports of hundreds of Chinese students who had “disappeared” after entering the country to ostensibly study but were actually detected working on farms hundreds of kilometres away from places they were supposed to be studying at. Many of these “students” have been found but a fairly large number are hard to detect.

The New Zealand immigration department now faces the task of building individual cases at enormous expense and time with a view to deporting them. There will then be appeals and hearings that will prolong the process—all at the unsuspecting taxpayer’s expense.

The New Zealand government has ordered an investigation into its overseas visa offices in China to get to the source of the malpractice in this particular case. Such immigration fraud scenarios are being played out across the Tasman in Australia with more regularity.

Once again last month, there were cases where New Zealand residents of Chinese origin allegedly reported their passports lost while travelling in Australia, returned to New Zealand on temporary documents and sold their passports to others in China who travelled to Australia as New Zealand citizens on these altered passports.

Australia has the additional problem of thousands of people turning up on its shores in boats demanding refugee status from a variety of countries. Although this cannot be termed fraudulent because there are genuine cases of refugees turning up, it is increasingly harder to establish genuineness.

The issue has taken such serious proportions that it has polarised the country’s political scene bringing in a paralysis of policy to tackle the situation, while in the meantime the problem looms even larger.



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