People smuggling U-turn

By Kathryn Powley

Authorities knew of allegations about boat people tragedy

Maythem Radhi is wanted by Australian authorities. Photo / 60 Minutes, Ch. 9 Australia
Maythem Radhi is wanted by Australian authorities. Photo / 60 Minutes, Ch. 9 Australia

Immigration NZ has admitted it questioned an Iraqi refugee about allegations he was involved in people-smuggling, but allowed him to settle in this country anyway.

Maythem Kamil Radhi has lived in Auckland with his family since March 2009, but is wanted in Australia for his alleged role in the 2001 SIEV (Suspected Illegal Entry Vessel) X disaster in which 353 asylum-seekers drowned trying to get from Indonesia to Australia.

Last month, Immigration NZ issued this statement: "INZ was not aware of Mr Radhi's alleged activities as a people-smuggler until after he arrived in New Zealand when Interpol made contact.

"INZ databases were checked and no indication of people-smuggling activity was found.

"Any indications that a quota refugee has been a people-smuggler would prevent them from being accepted into New Zealand."

But after questions from the Herald on Sunday, Immigration NZ admitted some of that statement was not true.

By email, department general manager Steve McGill said: "Having reviewed Mr Radhi's file again, INZ has now discovered a copy of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees' resettlement registration form which contained references to people-smuggling. This was received by INZ in 2008.

"Mr Radhi was interviewed by INZ refugee specialists in Indonesia in January 2009 and was questioned further about the people-smuggling accusations. Mr Radhi reiterated that he had not been involved in people-smuggling and after mandatory character and security checks he was subsequently approved for resettlement to New Zealand under the Refugee Quota Programme."

McGill said the UN considered that, as a member of the Mandaen faith, Radhi needed international protection and resettlement.

Assessment processes had been strengthened, he added.

Indonesian police found insufficient evidence to charge Radhi with people-smuggling.

But in February, the High Court in Auckland declined an Australian application to extradite Radhi to face charges there because in 2001 the maximum prison term for his alleged role was less than the one-year threshold for extradition.

- Herald on Sunday

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