Kiwi immigration authority criticised for risky fast-track visa deal

Published:  22 Apr at 6 PM
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Senior officials within New Zealand’s immigration services’ risk, intelligence and integrity division are highly critical of a new fast-track visa deal struck with a Chinese airline.

According to representatives of NZ Immigration, a deal giving fast-track immigration procedures to upscale passengers on China Southern Airlines was arranged without consulting immigration advisory staff. A subsequent risk report states that the frequent flyer privileges could be exploited by people smugglers and sex traffickers.

NZ Immigration found out about the new fast-track deal just several days before it was due to be put into effect. The processing of visitor visas in just five days will also apply to Air New Zealand’s Gold, Gold Elite and Silver cardholders and was pushed by former Immigration Minister Nathan Guy.

Details were kept secret until a leak revealed immigration’s concern about the deal to NZ First Leader Winston Peters. According to the New Zealand Herald, senior risk and intelligence experts are angry at the secrecy, especially in the light of the recent discovery of 300 fraudulent student visas issued in Beijing.

According to intelligence and risk head Shaun Driscoll, a key risk of many involving China is imported criminality, which seems to have been ignored as an ever present-danger when the deal was put together. The proposal, he added, stated incorrectly that membership of a frequent flyer club was not a factor in risk mitigation when, in fact, it was an aggravating factor.

Driscoll added that just about every international criminal he has investigated was a member of several frequent flyer clubs, and noted that the deal was wide open to serious abuse by the international criminal fraternity. He feels that China Southern Airlines could become a target for exploitation due to its exclusive deal.
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