Lincoln Tan

Lincoln Tan is the New Zealand Herald’s diversity, ethnic affairs and immigration senior reporter.

Debt agencies chase migrants' $1.7m bill

Sponsors of temporary migrants in New Zealand are now responsible for all costs.
Photo / Thinkstock
Sponsors of temporary migrants in New Zealand are now responsible for all costs. Photo / Thinkstock

Debt collection agencies will help Immigration New Zealand recover more than $1.7 million in costs associated with deporting migrants.

Changes to the Immigration Act since November 29, 2010, have made sponsors of temporary migrants responsible for all costs during their stay in the country, including medical, deportation and other expenses incurred by the Government.

But just over $3200 has been recovered from sponsors, with nearly $31,000 still owing, information released under the Official Information Act revealed.

Between December 2010 and February this year, 761 deportations were carried out by the department, costing taxpayers a total of $1,983,855.

The total amount recovered to date from migrants or their sponsors for deportations and removals is $221,167.

Migrants from Samoa (136) made up the largest group deported over the period, followed by China (92), Fiji (89), Tonga (87) and India (60).

Other foreign nationals with significant numbers deported are Malaysia (37), Britain (31), Indonesia (19) and South Africa (17).

These removals include deportations carried out under the 1987 Immigration Act, and the department says it "did not collect information in a reportable manner" on how many of them had a sponsor.

Peter Elms, acting general manager of intelligence, risk and integrity, said Immigration began actively "capturing sponsor-associated deportation costs and recoveries" last December.

The new act does not have provisions for sponsors to withdraw from their sponsorship of temporary migrants until they have left the country.

In 2010, Immigration NZ would not release a sponsor of a foreign student from her obligations despite the then 28-year-old female running away with her 60-year-old partner.

"The department follows a procedure in recovering costs from sponsors. This involves an invoice being sent, if no response is received, two reminder letters are sent out and then a debt collection agency is engaged," Mr Elms said.

Licensed immigration adviser Tika Ram says sponsors are not fronting the costs because they "think they can get away with it".

"The problem is with the implementation of the new law, and Immigration is only now just starting to get tough," Mr Ram said.

"Sponsors have been made fully aware of their obligations, but many of them will avoid paying if they think it will not land them in trouble or get them a poor credit rating."

Mr Ram said sponsors were often related to their sponsored migrants, and were very concerned about "face".

The most common visa held by those deported because they overstayed was the residence visa.

Deportations last year included 24 with permanent residency who had their status revoked because of criminal offending or failing to meet requirements.

Expulsions
(Dec 2010 to Feb 2012)

$1.98 m cost to taxpayer

$221,000 costs recovered

$31,000 owed by sponsors

$3245 recovered from sponsors

761 total deportations

- NZ Herald

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