Government needs to be careful about charging New Zealanders to return

I find myself in a unique situation at the moment. I have friends from my University of Canterbury days who did their postgraduate studies here. Shortly before they left at the end of 2002, their first child was born in Christchurch. 17 1/2 years later, having finished high school and decided to take a gap year before taking up her entrance to Yale University, she is coming to New Zealand. She is a New Zealand citizen as is the rest of her family.

On one hand I can understand the Government wanting to make sure that there is no unnecessary burden caused by people who have been out of New Zealand for a long time. Going into isolation for two weeks – or longer if one has COVID19 – is going to be a taxing time, not just for the person’s sanity, but also on the rest of New Zealand, whose government monies and resources will be in use to ensure the isolation is successful. In this respect I can understand why people might be annoyed with those who want to come home just for the duration that it takes for the world to get over COVID19 and then presumably vanish again.

On the other hand, some of the sentiment and some of the politicking around this is completely misguided and that is where I think my friend from the United States comes into the picture. She left the country with her parents when their study finished – her mother graduated with a Masters in Law; her father with a PhD in seismic engineering. She has spent the last 17 years living in Los Angeles with her sister and parents. In this case she has never had an opportunity to pay New Zealand taxes because she has not lived here as a taxpaying citizen, and she would be arriving just out of high school. If she gets paid employment it would more than cover the $3,000. I would suggest that before we charge a New Zealand citizen doing a reverse Overseas Experience we look at non-New Zealanders who have no connection at all to this country. I would suggest that the America’s Cup yachties, Hollywood film crews and such be made to stump up.

And let us have a look at the reasons why some New Zealanders are coming home. Many have lost jobs and have little prospect of staying in their current locations. When COVID19 started they might have been told that their jobs were still secure, so they did not leave and simply toughed it out only to find that in the interim the employment ground they thought they stood on has shifted. Given the increasingly politically volatile nature of many places popular with New Zealanders long term, staying there might not be an option any longer for simple reasons of safety. One has to look no further than Hong Kong, where even if one has not participated in any recent protests, the imposition of the National Security Law means if the Chinese authorities suspect you, harsh times await you in the Chinese justice system. For that reason, no one can blame New Zealanders living in Hong Kong if they suddenly no longer feel safe there.

So, my suggestion to the New Zealand Government is very simple. It needs to be extremely careful about how it handles this. New Zealanders overseas are not necessarily coming home because they suddenly thought “I’ll jump on a plane and go home”. They are coming home because their employer said “sorry, the job we thought we could save for you no longer exists”, or because the fear of a knock on the door from authorities no longer constrained by democratic rule is now realistic.

It’s not simply about “having a holiday” as some misinformed individuals seem to think.

Just deport Karel Sroubek and be done with it

Karel Sroubek, who tried to import MDMA ecstasy powder, and was found guilty of misusing passports to come to New Zealand has been denied parole by the Parole Board for the third time. Mr Sroubek, who arrived in New Zealand after fleeing the Czech Republic on a friends passport, has a long record of criminal activity, including associations with gangs in New Zealand and the Czech underworld. His third application for parole was met with “see you in November”, when the next hearing will be scheduled.

As far as I am concerned Mr Sroubek has no place in New Zealand. The combination of his long record of criminal activity both in New Zealand and in the Czech Republic in my estimate more than qualifies him for deportation. The botched review of his case by the Minister of Immigration, Iain Lees-Galloway and his decision to grant a convicted criminal with existing links to New Zealand and Czech criminals, residency, undermines the value of being able to stay in New Zealand indefinitely. The subsequent decision to remove any prospect of removal points to a Minister failing to accurately assess and understand the gravity of Mr Sroubek’s past.

People with knowledge of Mr Sroubek’s case and his time in the New Zealand prison system say that he has been an excellent inmate and that he has been keeping himself occupied with yoga classes. He has been encouraged to employ one of the prison psychologists available, and has said he will, but not in prison. However, when he was asked about residences he could stay at upon release from prison one is that of a person on parole themselves and another is that of a person with strong gang connections.

Over the years other prospective residents have been deported from New Zealand for much less than the crimes Mr Sroubek has committed. Several of them had contributed far more to the country than Mr Sroubek has, and due to unfortunate circumstances such as visa difficulties, ill family members and so forth, were deported. I fail to see what makes Mr Sroubek so important that he must stay here, especially considering the gravity of his criminal record, the lies that have gone with it and the probability of reoffending. Just deport him and be done with it.



Tighter laws needed on licencing immigration consultants

A racket run by a Whangarei restaurateur and the boss of a Wellington based immigration consultancy is the latest example of why New Zealand needs to significantly tighten up the licencing process for immigration consultants.

Gurpreet Singh and Graeme Ryan are possibly going to face criminal charges as a result of a scam that saw 17 Indians get residency through a fake consultancy that Mr Ryan established. They would get jobs in return for paying significant fees to Bite Consultancy/BC International, such as a non-existent I.T. job that Karamjeet Singh (no relation)applied for. There was just one problem. The job never existed and Mr Singh lost $35,000.

There are two parallel sets of tasks that need to be happening at the same time in order for this kind of behaviour to stop. First, the authorities need to make clear to migrant communities that scams are a criminal offence in New Zealand and that organizing or assisting one will carry heavy penalties. Second, the authorities need to make clear cut examples of the consequences for those who do run such rackets – heavy fines are not enough; jail time and deportation for those who are not New Zealand permanent residents and citizens is necessary.

Tough talk? Yep. Necessary? Unfortunately, quite necessary. Scams amongst migrant communities we should not be so surprised about as many do not understand that the New Zealand authorities are among the least corrupt in the world, and may be inclined to think that they can get away with such conduct. But to have people who should have a good idea of New Zealand law or least western law such as Mr Ryan involved in such activity suggests that those who know the risks and decided that the illegitimate gains to be had are worth the consequences, tells me clearly that the law needs tightening.

This is by no means the first immigration scam to hit New Zealand and nor will it be the last. Just a few of the more recent ones to have occurred can be seen listed below:

  • In October 2019 red flags were raised over websites purporting to enable Electronic Travel Authorizations or visa’s to New Zealand
  • Numerous scams including some made public in March 2019 have been linked to study visas

Population policy no excuse for Shane Jones’ dog whistling

The comments by Shane Jones that Indians not happy with the Government’s new visa policy should catch the next flight home highlight a wayward Minister, but also remind me that we are still waiting for wholesale policy on population growth. In particular I am concerned that New Zealand has still not worked out a humane, but firm immigration policy and that development of it seems to be hindered by partisan politics.

New Zealand has long struggled to get develop an immigration policy that gets the best out of both sustainable population growth whilst being a forward, progressive looking nation. We are a small nation that needs to ensure that our infrastructure, communities and social policy planning are integrated in a way that keeps the growth at rate that can be maintained without enabling xenophobic attitudes to develop. At the same time skilled workers and those who want to come and contribute proactively to New Zealand society, need to be afforded a realistic chance of doing so.

All too frequently I see articles in the media about employers who have emigrated from other countries and gained Manager certificates here abusing their staff. Much of it happens in the liquor and hospitality sectors. Very often their staff are from the same countries of origin as they are.

But there are also a number of instances of visa fraud in New Zealand. Much of this activity stems from illegal agents in countries overseas who Immigration New Zealand is aware of, but is reliant on their host country to stamp out. In this case, much of it stems from a substantial growth in Chinese visitors to New Zealand, the number of which has nearly doubled in 5 years.

New Zealand First had a population policy advocated for by former Member of Parliament, Denis O’Rourke. However it was a very conservative and in many respects not realistic one that was based on there being only 5 million people in the country. New Zealand will probably reach 5 million people late next decade.

However the kind of dog whistling that Mr Jones involved himself in when commenting on the complaints by the Indian community about his suggestion that they catch the next flight home was combative, boorish and unbecoming of a Minister of the Crown. Nor do I believe that Indians intend to bring “the whole village over” as Mr Jones implied. And historically it is of the nature that helped to get New Zealand First, whom Mr Jones is a List M.P. for, ejected from Parliament at the 2008 election.

I cannot imagine Mr Jones making an apology even if Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern asks him to. But his propensity for making ill judged and in this case inflammatory comments will cost the Government if he is not reined in.





Inconvenient facts undermine all sides in Karel Sroubek case

An array of facts have come to light that could be considered politically inconvenient to all sides in the case of Karel Sroubek, a Czech national who has been convicted of drug smuggling, and quite bizarrely allowed to remain in New Zealand as resident. The revelation that new information has come to light on the case, has caused the Minister for Immigration, Iain Lees-Galloway to immediately review the case.

National Party leader Simon Bridges says that Mr Lees-Galloway should quit his Ministerial portfolio’s as he has shown himself to be unfit to make an appropriate decision.

Mr Bridges omits to acknowledge that one of Mr Lees-Galloway’s predecessors, Dr Jonathan Coleman, former National Party M.P., and one time Minister of Immigration in 2011 permitted Mr Sroubek to enter New Zealand then. Dr Coleman most probably knew of his circumstances,

Mr Sroubek claims that the Czech police attitude to him endangers his safety and that corruption in the Czech police force meant it is more appropriate to flee to a foreign jurisdiction (New Zealand). He did this on a false passport. He then got convicted for importing $375,000 worth of MDMA which is used to make Ecstasy. Mr Sroubek also has had several brushes with New Zealand Police. All of this he has admitted.

However Mr Lees-Galloway told Parliament this afternoon that more information has come to light which he is reviewing with urgency.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told people to read between the lines on Mr Sroubek’s case.

The people did read between the lines and the overwhelming majority think a big mistake was made trusting the story Mr Sroubek offered. Other than Mr Lees-Galloway and his colleagues including Ms Ardern, I have yet to see anyone write in defence of Mr Sroubek.

Mr Lees-Galloway, tried to be honest with Parliament by immediately informing it of new information this afternoon. In doing so, he was trying to repair some of the damage tha would have been caused when this all went public several days ago.

Except that the new information – should it further implicate Mr Sroubek – will in the minds of New Zealanders make Mr Lees-Galloway’s decision making look like the shambles it has been. How could they have confidence in him after that?

Let us admit this much now. No one at this rate is going to come out of it squeaky clean, especially given that ever since Mr Lees-Galloway told New Zealand that he was approving residency for this convicted criminal, the public reaction has been overwhelmingly hostile for very obvious reasons. Mr Sroubek would have an almost impossible task finding work, establishing himself as a reputable person and his nature suggests that more brushes with the blue arm of the law in New Zealand are a certainty.

New Zealand should save itself from a potentially messy and very costly situation now by ending Mr Sroubek’s residency and deporting him forthwith. There is no other way this can end appropriately.