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Drop in illegal immigrants immaterial

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse has claimed that tighter border security and better systems and procedures have helped to bring down the number of overstayers in New Zealand.

He put the number at 13,151, still high for a country that accounts for no more than 18,000 persons as ‘net migration gain.’

Some experts have argued that overstayers are certainly a drain on the exchequer. They admit that many overstayers may not be in the ‘direct employment market,’ but a substantial number of them would be earning some income.

“They are not in the system and hence do not pay taxes. The country’s infrastructure is available for their use. Ordinary New Zealanders and all tax payers bear the burden,” the experts say.

Mr Woodhouse said that a new report, released on December 19, 2013, described the current level of overstayers is ‘the lowest in this Century,’ and about 6.3% less that the figure registered in 2012.

“The number of overstayers is 33% lower than the 2005 estimate of nearly 20,000. The estimated rate of overstaying (the number of overstayers compared with the number of temporary arrivals) is now very small by international standards at around five in 10,000 (0.05%). At the same time, removal and deportation costs have nearly halved from $3 million in 2005-2006 to $1.53 million in 2012-2013, which represents significant savings for the taxpayer,” Mr Woodhouse said.

To be fair, New Zealand governments (both National and Labour) have been fair to visitors to this country, even if some of them have breached the immigration rules. Immigration New Zealand and its Risk Assessment (Anti-Fraud) Unit have better systems and better coordination between various agencies to discourage overstayers.

Mr Woodhouse claimed that these systems denied boarding of 1600 people at their embarking stations since they were considered ‘risks.’

“Voluntary departures have significantly increased over this period, as the Government continues to encourage overstayers to settle their affairs and pay their own costs for departure, or face sanctions and bans from returning. We are preventing more high-risk travellers arriving in New Zealand in the first place, and we are seeing that overstayers are much more likely to pay for their own departure,” he said.

Even so, statistics in relation to illegal immigrants are always sketchy because no one can really provide even ‘close to realistic figures.’ True, as Mr Woodhouse says, a majority of illegal migrants may not be criminals and may remain here beyond the term of their visas for a number of reasons such as employment and family. But that should not lead to leniency. The Government must tighten its regulations and subject those considered risky to ‘financial incentives’ as followed by Britain.

Two months ago, Home Secretary Theresa May announced a pilot scheme to make visitors from India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Ghana and Nigeria pay a £3000 bond when applying for visas. The amount would be returned when they leave.

According to immigration authorities, about 400,000 Indians visit Britain each year and that in 2012, about 1710 were forced to leave and 6896 departed voluntarily after violating the terms of their visas.

New Zealand also has a bond system but it does not seem to deter overstayers. There should be a better and smarter system in place to deter illegal immigrants from staying on.

We need migrants to boost our population but it would be unfair and unacceptable to ‘regularise’ the stay of people who are illegally here.

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