Lincoln Tan

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

$9m bill for deportations

Call for illegal migrants to leave at own cost as Government still $8m out of pocket.

Last year 1393 people left voluntarily compared with 767 enforced deportations. Photo / Dean Purcell
Last year 1393 people left voluntarily compared with 767 enforced deportations. Photo / Dean Purcell

More than $9 million has been spent deporting 3900 illegal migrants since 2008, with $8.12 million still left to recover.

There are more than 14,000 overstayers in New Zealand and the Association for Migration and Investment says the country does not have the financial resources to deport all illegal migrants.

People who have stayed past their visa entitlements are subject to deportation, as are those who have obtained visas fraudulently.

These include 154 China nationals who were among the 299 applications lodged in Beijing last year found with fraudulent documents, and 40 Tongan nationals with criminal convictions who were wrongly issued a clean police record by Tongan authorities.

Some of the Tongans are now permanent residents.

Of the 245 Chinese students who arrived on fraudulently obtained visas, 56 have left but 154 have become unlawful.

Association chairman Walter Stone said: "We do not think New Zealand can afford the cost of deportation."

Overstayers from five Pacific countries - Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Tuvalu and Kiribati - make up 7504, or 53 per cent of those unlawfully here, and estimates also show significant increases in overstayers from India and Kiribati.

China is the source of 1604 overstayers, India 678, Great Britain 506, Malaysia 447 and South Korea 354.

"Unlawful immigrants have a highly negative impact on the economy and society, and they bring legitimate migrants into disrepute," Mr Stone said.

"Further, unlawful migrants are exploited in the workplace by unscrupulous employers which means employment is taken from New Zealanders and legitimate migrants."

Most overstayers, or 62 per cent, previously held a visitor visa, while 2345 had been on a work visa and 1808 on a student visa.

People who are deported face a ban on returning and are required to pay the cost of their deportation before they can be considered for a visa, said Immigration fraud and compliance manager Peter Elms. In the past five years, the agency managed to recover only about 10 per cent of the cost from the 3918 it deported.

Mr Elms said the agency was now focused on encouraging overstayers to depart at their own cost.

"Voluntary departure enables the individual to co-operate with Immigration, settle their affairs and pay for their own costs in returning to their home country," Mr Elms said.

Last year, there were 1393 voluntary departures compared with 767 deportations, up from 842 in 2008 and 1163 in 2011.

Mr Elms said the Crown would still meet the cost for those unable to pay their own way.

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