Probe into de­por­ta­tion de­ci­sion

Im­mi­gra­tion lawyers say Om­buds­man’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion could open flood­gates for over­stay­ers to gain res­i­dency

The New Zealand Herald - - NEWS - Lin­coln Tan im­mi­gra­tion lin­coln.tan@nzher­

Im­mi­gra­tion New Zealand will be in­ves­ti­gated by the Om­buds­man for re­fus­ing to can­cel a de­por­ta­tion or­der it is­sued to a state­less over­stayer two years ago. Long-term over­stayer Har­mon Wil­fred re­nounced his US cit­i­zen­ship in 2005 and ap­plied for New Zealand cit­i­zen­ship in 2011.

But the Depart­ment of In­ter­nal Af­fairs told him that his ap­pli­ca­tion would not be pre­sented to the Min­is­ter of In­ter­nal Af­fairs be­cause he was a sub­ject of an im­mi­gra­tion com­pli­ance ac­tion.

Chief Om­buds­man Dame Bev­er­ley Wakem said in a let­ter to Mr Wil­fred that the depart­ment’s de­ci­sion not to re­fer the cit­i­zen­ship ap­pli­ca­tion to the min­is­ter for con­sid­er­a­tion would be in­ves­ti­gated. ‘‘I have writ­ten to the chief ex­ec­u­tives of the Min­istry of Busi­ness, In­no­va­tion and Em­ploy­ment [of which INZ is a part] and the depart­ment to re­quest re­ports on the mat­ters that I pro­pose to in­ves­ti­gate.’’

Im­mi­gra­tion lawyers said they would fol­low the in­ves­ti­ga­tion with in­ter­est, as the out­come could ‘‘open the flood­gates’’ for over­stay­ers to gain cit­i­zen­ship.

‘‘We are look­ing at po­ten­tially a loop-

We are look­ing at po­ten­tially a

loop­hole. Im­mi­gra­tion lawyer

Fer­shen Llanes

hole, which could pro­vide a path­way for those un­law­fully here to gain New Zealand cit­i­zen­ship by re­nounc­ing the cit­i­zen­ship of their coun­try of ori­gin,’’ said im­mi­gra­tion lawyer Fer­shen Llanes.

Michael Kim, an im­mi­gra­tion lawyer with Re­gent Law, said leg­is­la­tion did not au­to­mat­i­cally guar­an­tee cit­i­zen­ship to a state­less per­son in New Zealand.

‘‘But it also does not say that peo­ple who re­nounce their cit­i­zen­ship to be­come state­less can­not ap­ply for cit­i­zen­ship,’’ he said. ‘‘There are no safe­guards to en­sure that this loop­hole is not be­ing ex­ploited.’’

Mr Wil­fred al­leges he is a vic­tim of a CIA con­spir­acy af­ter he acted as a whistle­blower to ex­pose cor­rup­tion in the agency. He fled first to Hong Kong and then to New Zealand in 2001, and has been here un­law­fully since Novem­ber 2004.

Im­mi­gra­tion com­pli­ance man­ager Natalie Gar­diner said: ‘‘Har­mon Wil­fred has been un­law­fully in New Zealand for more than eight years. Mr Wil­fred has no le­gal sta­tus in New Zealand and he should leave the coun­try as soon as pos­si­ble.’’

Ms Gar­diner said a de­por­ta­tion or­der was served on Mr Wil­fred in Fe­bru­ary 2011, and com­pli­ance of­fi­cers were ac­tively en­cour­ag­ing him to leave.

In­ter­nal Af­fairs spokes­woman Jo Watt said the depart­ment based its de­ci­sion on le­gal ad­vice.

She said three state­less peo­ple had been granted New Zealand cit­i­zen­ship in the past 10 years.

Har­mon Wil­fred

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