Australian criminal allowed back in New Zealand four times

4:16 pm on 19 March 2019

Border checks are in the spotlight after an Australian criminal claims he was allowed into New Zealand four times before immigration authorities picked him up.

Immigration to New Zealand.

Immigration to New Zealand. Photo: RNZ

The 37-year-old - who was facing deportation - won an appeal to stay after arguing Immigration New Zealand had not noticed he had repeatedly disclosed his previous convictions.

The case, and immigration powers to detect Australian criminals, came to light as police said the accused Christchurch gunman, Brenton Tarrant, had no criminal record in Australia. Al Jazeera reported he had convictions for driving offences.

Immigration New Zealand said travellers coming from visa waiver countries, including Australia, were asked questions about convictions on their arrival card and would be refused entry if they did not meet character requirements.

If not, Australians were granted a residence visa on arrival.

But a decision published by the Immigration and Protection Tribunal last week suggested processes on checking convictions may not be robust.

The tribunal upheld the unnamed Australian man's appeal against deportation.

He argued he had built a life after being allowed into the country despite his police record.

The tribunal accepted his assertions that he had recorded his convictions on arrival cards three times before they were acted upon by Immigration New Zealand.

His appeal was summarised by the tribunal, which heard he was jailed for six-and-a-half years in total for six robberies and an assault in 2003 and 2004.

"He has always declared his criminal convictions on arrival in New Zealand but, as the arrival cards are destroyed every six months, the appellant is unable to establish the truth of his actions," his lawyer told the tribunal.

"[He] has lived in New Zealand since 2012. Immigration New Zealand's error has resulted in the appellant having established a very positive life for himself here and asking him to leave now would be unduly harsh, particularly as he has not been in trouble with the law and instead has made significant contributions from both a family and employment standpoint."

He argued his relationship with a New Zealand woman, and the best interests of their four-year-old son, amounted to humanitarian circumstances which should allow him to stay.

The tribunal agreed and noted: "As [he] has otherwise been truthful about his circumstances the Tribunal extends him the benefit of the doubt with respect to his claim to have disclosed his criminal history on his arrival card on each occasion he arrived in New Zealand, as on his arrival card in May 2018."

Immigration New Zealand said if there was information available that indicated a visa-waiver traveller was not of good character, they may be refused boarding.

All individuals travelling to New Zealand are required to apply for entry permission by completing an arrival card, its border manager, Stephanie Greathead said.

"If a visa-waiver traveller does not meet character requirements at arrival, they are liable to be refused entry and turned around at the border."

Five Australians had been deported last year, she added.

Last year, the then New Zealand High Commissioner in Canberra told the Joint Standing Committee on Migration that Australia was deporting about one New Zealander a day.

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