28 Jun 2019

Immigration NZ denies racial profiling to rank applications

2:10 pm on 28 June 2019

Immigration New Zealand has denied it is using racial profiling as a way of ranking the risk visa applicants may pose to the country.

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Photo: 123rf.com

In a briefing document on student visas, nine nationalities are blanked out in a table showing the numbers of high, medium and low-risk applications.

Immigration lawyer Richard Small said risk profiling had been happening for some time.

"Almost there's a ranking, starting with our traditional visa-free countries and going through to the bottom of the list to the highest risk," he said.

"I think whatever words you want to use it seems pretty clear for example that there has been risk profiling around the Indian market, there has long been risk profiling to do with 'low-value migrants' from the Pacific, blind Freddie can see that."

Immigration New Zealand should be judged on its protection of the borders, he said, but also on how it is treating people such as applicants, sponsors and employers.

He is calling for a review of the restructure, branch closures, high turnover of staff and automation of decisions.

Risk profiles were part of the increasing use of 'roboting' at Immigration New Zealand and there needed to be independent oversight of that, he said.

Applications initially assessed as low risk are being prioritised and the rest are now being put in a queue, to be dealt with once the others are processed.

The Licensed Immigration Advisers' body for New Zealand in India (LIANZ) said it was getting mixed messages: Education New Zealand was strongly marketing high-value courses to India, but now Immigration New Zealand was putting even students applying for those courses at the back of the queue.

"Ninety per cent of the applications that I personally have in the queue right now are all for ITPs (institutes of technology and polytechnics) and universities. And they have been in the queue for seven months," said an LIANZ spokesman.

"Now it's the high value students that are applying and they say they are high risk. So we are confused. What are we supposed to do?"

Richard Small

Immigration lawyer Richard Small says risk profiling had been happening for some time. Photo: Supplied/ Pacific Legal

The documents appeared to show Indian students were classed as high-risk applicants, he said.

"Many parts of the nationalities are redacted, but somewhere they have missed it. And it clearly talks about Indian students, so probably they forgot to redact that aspect.

"If the Indian market is the high-risk market for them, then why just not shut it all down, why do they even want business from India?"

Immigration's Mumbai office, which has been dealing with a 66 per cent rise in Indian student applications this year, had 3645 medium and high-risk applications at the end of March, and only eight were classed as low-risk.

Immigration New Zealand assistant general manager for visa services, Jeannie Melville, said it still processed student visas manually and did not decide the risk level of an application based solely on nationality.

"When we triage, we look at a range of factors," she said. "So nationality could be one of them. But in the student space, we're also looking at the provider, the agent, the level of the course, the age of the student, and a whole range of factors.

"What this table is intending to show is the highest volume nationalities in each of those low, medium and high-risk categories."

It had been tweaking its operations since the branch closures began and the visa processing delays which followed, she said.

That included reversing its decision to close its Henderson branch in Auckland, which will now instead be expanded, and the delaying of the closure of Manila, one of its few remaining offices overseas.

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