Isaac Davison

Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

Minister disputes claim asylum seekers bought NZ papers

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse. Photo / APN
Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse. Photo / APN

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse says officials are looking at claims that asylum seekers in the Middle East have bought false New Zealand visas and passports and successfully crossed our border.

The minister said that 30 people had arrived here without any paperwork, but there was "absolutely no evidence" that they had bought their documentation by a method described in an Australian news report. An investigation by the ABC found that an Iraqi people-smuggler known as Abu Tarek was selling Australian and New Zealand visas and passports to asylum seekers for up to A$18,000 ($20,000), and many of these people had already entered one of the countries.

The people-smuggler was targeting Lebanese nationals who wanted to flee the north of the country, which borders Syria.

The ABC report said the buyers were encouraged to use the documents to board commercial airline flights, tear up their visa and passport on arrival, and attempt to claim refugee status.

Under questioning by New Zealand First leader Winston Peters in Parliament, Mr Woodhouse said a claim that people had entered the country in this way was "a heinous lie".

The minister later told reporters that 30 people had arrived here after tearing up their papers.

But he said he did not believe these people fell into the category of those described in the ABC report because they were not Lebanese.

"At this stage there's no evidence from Immigration New Zealand that there's been a successful landing in New Zealand by that method."

Asked whether a person of any nationality might have entered after buying a visa and passport, he said officials would investigate whether this was the case.

"It's too early for me to be able to say whether or not there were questions about the manner in which those documents were gained. They arrived without documents - the question is how they boarded those planes."

The minister said that 1500 people were prevented from boarding planes each year because of incorrect paperwork or criminal convictions.

- NZ Herald

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