16 Oct 2019

Immigration Minister Ian Lees-Galloway hits back at 'Sroubrek 2.0' criticism

9:40 am on 16 October 2019

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway has defended granting residency to a man with multiple drink-driving convictions saying they'd been in the country for 20 years and had kept out of trouble for a long time.

The National Party dubbed the move a 'Sroubek 2.0' - a reference to the Czech drug smuggler Karel Sroubek.

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway and National Party leader Simon Bridges.

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway and National Party leader Simon Bridges. Photo: RNZ/Dom Thomas

The party's leader, Simon Bridges, said Mr Lees-Galloway gave the person, who he says endangered Kiwi lives, the keys to the kingdom of New Zealand.

But Immigration NZ has confirmed the person received the same access to benefits and privileges on a temporary work visa which was issued twice by the National-led government.

Immigration NZ general manager Stephen Dunstan said those on a temporary work visa have the same access to publicly-funded healthcare and benefits as those on a resident's visa would.

"An individual on a temporary work visa is legally entitled to work in New Zealand and would have access to publicly funded healthcare," he said.

"Refugee and protected persons on temporary work visas would also have access to government support through the benefit system."

Mr Dunstan said the only difference is that on a residence class visa, the person would be able to apply for citizenship.

"Temporary work visa holders would also need to re-apply for a further visa in order to remain in New Zealand lawfully, whereas residence class visa holders can remain in New Zealand permanently.''

The person in question has not had a conviction for seven years.

Mr Bridges told Morning Report he would not have granted the person residency and would have instead "left [them] in limbo".

"The minister had a choice or a discretion to grant this person residency or not, and knowing that he's been a six-times drink driver, he shouldn't have."

He said that he did not know the full details of the case but that what was granted by National was temporary.

"Unless its residency, these people can and do leave because the situation is such that that's the position that they are put in."

Mr Lees-Galloway told Morning Report the person had been in the country for close to 20 years now.

"If we're thinking about the safety of New Zealanders, the best thing to do is to give them the opportunity to settle well, to have the opportunity to work and contribute to our society - I felt the best way for that to happen was to give them residency," Mr Lees-Galloway said.

"Whether they're on a temporary visa or residency, they're here. It's up to the criminal justice system to deal with those drink driving defences.

"Anybody in New Zealand who drinks and drives should expect to face the full force of the law, and this person has."

Mr Lees-Galloway said the person has "kept their nose clean" for quite a long time now.

He denied Mr Bridges assertion that his office was leaking information about the case.

"Simon Bridges is all over the place on this. He's not quite sure what his attack line is, and having failed to land on attack line, now he's trying another. I think it's pretty silly."