30 Jun 2016

Minister dismisses racial profiling claims

1:35 pm on 30 June 2016

Customs does not racially profile passengers entering New Zealand or target them because of their religion, the minister says.

National MP Nicky Wagner.

National MP Nicky Wagner. Photo: NZ GOVERNMENT

RNZ News spoke to 14 people this week who said they were stopped by Customs because of their ethnic background or because they were Islamic.

National MP for Hamilton East David Bennett told Customs Minister Nicky Wagner at a Parliamentary select committee today that Somali members of his electorate were regularly subjected to similar treatment.

"I had dinner with some of my Somali community on Monday, and they said sometimes they can get held up for three to four hours at the border coming back from their country.

"And these are people who have worked for 10 years in government departments in Hamilton, they pose no risk at all, and yet just because of the country of origin that they've gone to it makes it then difficult."

But the minister said Customs did not target passengers because of either race or religion.

"We can't single them out because we don't have any way to collect any information about race or religion, so we can't do that," she said.

"We can see them, but we stop people because there's some kind of information that we think is risk. And it might be where they travel, it's often geographically where they've been."

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs