Overstayers arrested in the Bay

By Sandra Conchie


A Pacific Island woman will be forced to leave her partner and children behind when she is deported after being caught in an immigration blitz.

She was one of 18 illegal workers arrested in raids across the Western Bay, some of whom appear in court today.

The woman and seven others appeared in court on Monday. Immigration officials arrested the eight, two men and six women, last Friday at different locations across the district. Removal orders were signed by Judge Robert Wolff when they appeared in court.

Among the group were three Malaysians, two Vietnamese women, a couple from Thailand, and the Tongan woman, who will have to leave behind her partner and children, who are New Zealand citizens.

Duty solicitor Nicholas Dutch told Judge Wolff the Tongan woman had sought help from the Immigration Minister in May 2008 but the minister had refused to intervene after she exhausted her appeal rights.<inline type="recurring-inline" id="1003" align="outside" enforce-sites="no" />

The woman was crying in court and Judge Wolff told her he sympathised. "But I regret I cannot go behind the minster's decision. I am sorry for you and your family but I cannot do anything about it," he said.

The judge signed a warrant of commitment authorising the woman to be held in custody for 28 days pending a flight being arranged for her back to Tonga.

Among the three Malaysian overstayers in court on Monday was a man who had been living here illegally since September 29, 2008, and another whose entry visa expired on June 26, 2009.

One of the two Vietnamese women who worked together was due to depart the country yesterday.

The other woman was being held in an Immigration detention centre in Auckland pending travel documents being arranged with her embassy because her current documents had expired.

The Thai couple are also being held in custody until flights to depart the country can be arranged.

The other 10 - nine Indian nationals and a Malaysian who were arrested in Te Puke - were due to appear in court today.

Recent Immigration New Zealand operations in the Bay of Plenty have focused on illegal workers in the horticulture sector and the Bay of Plenty Times understands the arrests were the result of information received from within the industry.

The crackdown comes as Prime Minister John Key and Immigration Minister Nathan Guy announced this week changes under which asylum seekers can be detained if they arrive illegally in a big group.

They would be immediately detained under a group warrant rather than the individual warrants.

The new rules would apply to those who arrived in groups of 11 or more is aimed at deterring boat people trying to make their way to New Zealand's shores.

The changes would mean boat people who arrived illegally but were later accepted as refugees would be treated less favourably than refugees who were accepted into New Zealand through the usual United Nations Refugee Agency process.

Mr Key said the changes were intended to make it clear to people smugglers that New Zealand was not a soft target and deter attempts to queue jump as refugees. Last month, 10 Chinese nationals arrived in Darwin on a boat and said they were headed to New Zealand.

They have now claimed asylum in Australia. The legislation to make the changes to the Immigration Act will be introduced in Parliament this week and Mr Guy expected it to pass by the end of the year.

In 2010/2011, more than 750 overstayers were deported.

Immigration New Zealand warns that it would take firm action against any illegal workers and anyone employing them and urges people illegally in the country to call the service's freephone 0508 55 88 to discuss their situation. additional reporting APN

- Bay of Plenty Times

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