Immigration officers to get beefed-up search powers

Source: NZ herald

By: Lincoln Tan

Immigration officers are to be given greater powers of search and investigation without reliance on police under new laws coming in next month.

Officers will be able to investigate and act against offenders without the need to rely on Customs or police under the Immigration Act.

They will be able to enter and search places and crafts, inspecting records of educational providers, accommodation providers, employers and even buildings and premises of people liable for deportation.

The new act comes into effect on November 29 and, subject to Cabinet approval, officers working for Immigration New Zealand will be given new powers.

“The amendments will allow immigration officers to carry out routine immigration-related investigations and functions without relying on resources from our partner agencies,” said Nigel Bickle, head of Immigration.

Under the current law, these powers are exercised by police or Customs on behalf of the department.

“The powers are carefully prescribed to be used in specific circumstances,” Mr Bickle said.

The new powers restrict officers to enter and search in immigration-controlled areas such as airports, not private homes, and where they enter premises where a person who is liable for deportation is believed to be, it will be only for the specific functions related to deportation, he said.

In the 12 months to September 30, the agency deported 687 overstayers – costing taxpayers nearly $1.7 million – with people from Samoa, Fiji and Tonga making up nearly half of those repatriated.

A new detention and monitoring system will be introduced under the act, allowing Immigration officials to choose from a range of options, including putting people into secure detention or releasing offenders with reporting conditions.

“The act establishes a flexible approach to monitoring and detaining foreign nationals who are considered to be a threat to the integrity of the immigration system or the security and safety of New Zealand,” Mr Bickle said.

“The new system brings us into the era of the modern regulatory framework, which allows us to choose between a range of options based on risk, rather than a one-size-fits-all.”

People who are liable for arrest and detention may be monitored in the community or detained in custody. Determining factors include the possibility of a person absconding, criminality, risk to public safety and identity concerns.

The new powers will only be brought into force when Cabinet is satisfied that the appropriate training and operating instructions have been developed, and that there are safeguards in place.

Said Mr Bickle: “No date has been determined yet.”

Under the new act, people facing deportation may be detained in police custody without warrant for up to 96 hours, compared with up to 24 or 72 hours depending on circumstances under the current act.

Warrants of commitment may also be granted by the District Court to hold a person liable to arrest or detention in custody for up to 28 days, and a person may also be held under warrant for a continuous period for up to six months following the completion of relevant immigration processes.

“Specially-designated Immigration officers will be able to detain people for a maximum of four hours. This new power will be brought into effect by order in council,” Mr Bickle said.


(Awaiting Cabinet approval)
* Immigration offenders face secure detention or reporting conditions.

* Immigration officers can enter and search crafts, schools and buildings.

* New act will allow Immigration officers to act independently from police and Customs.


Total deported in the last 12 months: 687 people costing $1.68 million

* Samoa: 157 people deported at a cost of $385,000
* Fiji: 71 people deported at a cost of $174,000
* China: 70 people deported at a cost of $172,000
* Tonga: 61 people deported at a cost of $150,000
* Malaysia: 51 people deported at a cost of $125,000
* India: 32 people deported at a cost of $78,400
* Great Britain: 28 people deported at a cost of $68,600
* Indonesia: 23 people deported at a cost of $56,350
* South Africa: 18 people deported at a cost of $44,100
* Chile: 15 people deported at a cost of $36,750