Syrian New Zealanders are being unfairly targeted for searches and held for hours at a time at the country's biggest airport, a Syrian community leader claims.

Ali Akil told the Herald his family members - New Zealand passport holders - had been selected for searches at Auckland International Airport.

"A lot of people in the Syrian community have been stopped.

"They are claiming it's a random check, but the question we put to them is are they actually random checks, how can people from a particular group get checked [so often]?"


Akil said Syrian New Zealanders were stopped for "anything between two and four hours", and asked to hand over their mobile devices and provide PIN codes and passwords.

Samer Soud told ONENews he has been stopped and detained six times in the last two years at Auckland International Airport when returning home from visiting his son in Sydney.

Akil said those stopped and searched were shocked and upset.

"They are all New Zealanders at the end of the day. They say with a New Zealand passport we go to every single country in the world respected, we come back home and we are ill treated."

He said his sister was stopped and searched at Auckland Airport in 2015.

"She travelled overseas, she came back and she was stopped for about three hours and all her bags were emptied, her device was taken away from her and she was asked for the PIN number.

She has a New Zealand passport. She came to New Zealand when she was 10 years old . . . when she travelled and came back that was the hospitality they had for her.

Akil said he was familiar with it happening regularly to Syrian New Zealanders "in particular but also Middle Eastern [people] in general"

"It's happened to my sister, it's happened to my father, it's happened to the vast majority of my Kiwi Syrian friends"

Ashraf Almoukdad - who has lived in New Zealand since 1987 and has a Kiwi passport - told the Herald he was stopped and searched at Auckland Airport after returning from Bali, and asked by a customs officer what he thought of ISIS.

Ashraf Almoukdad said a customs officer at Auckland Airport asked him what he thought of ISIS.
Ashraf Almoukdad said a customs officer at Auckland Airport asked him what he thought of ISIS.

"What we're going through is just not right," he said.

"Five hours i stayed at the airport, my kids were waiting for me outside and they wouldn't let me talk to them, I couldn't even tell them not to wait and that I'd take a taxi.

"There aren't many Syrian families in Auckland but so many have gone through this. I travelled once and got caught up in it."

"I was very upset, and helpless too."

A statement to the Herald from Customs said the number of passengers searched at airports is "very low", at less than 0.2 per cent.

"Fewer than 10,000 out of 5.4 million arriving passengers have their bags examined, and not all of these people have their electronic devices examined.

"A range of indicators are considered when deciding to interact with passengers, from nationality - to determine if a passenger has originated travel in, or passed through, a region of risk - through to body language and general demeanour. Customs does not profile passengers based on religion or belief.

"Under the Customs and Excise Act 1996 anyone arriving in or departing from New Zealand must answer questions they are asked about: their identity, their travel, and the goods in their possession.

"Electronic devices are defined as 'goods' in the Act which means Customs can search the device and its contents. The numbers of devices examined is very low. Customs has met with representatives of ethnic communities to hear their concerns, and we acknowledge the vast majority of travellers are legitimate."