Racial profiling allegations prompt concern over Govt data

Long Lunch 06/04/2018
Photo: File.

Immigration New Zealand has been accused of racial profiling in its method of collecting data and targeting people to deport.

New Zealand has 11,000 over-stayers, so Immigration NZ is gathering data including ethnicity, type of visa, gender and age, to project who's most likely to be a drain on resources.

Associate professor of Pacific Studies at Auckland University Damon Salesa joined Wendyl Nissen to discuss the implications of such accusations.

“It’s defended by them as kind of a cost-cutting measure to target people who shouldn’t be here, known as over-stayers, and who may be more likely to put a drain on the New Zealand tax dollar.”

The agency has admitted collecting data to determine how likely an over-stayer is to use hospital resources or commit immigration fraud.

“There needs to be quite a detailed explanation about what this is,” Mr Salesa said.

Tongan community leader Melino Maka says it reminds him of the dawn raids on the 1970s, when police would storm the homes of Pacific Islanders who they believed had over-stayed

We can't just simply accept Immigration NZ's assurance that this is not racist.

"They can say whatever they want to say but racial profile is racial profile, and it's dangerous for New Zealand," he told Newshub.

Mr Salesa said it’s not so much about data collection, but rather how Immigration NZ is using such data.

“The government knows a lot about us,” he said. “So I think we should be really vigilant in how this data is used.”

“We can’t just simply accept Immigration NZ’s assurance that this is not racist.”

But the bigger issue for the associate professor is how Pacific Islanders are perceived by Immigration NZ, when in fact the islands neighbour New Zealand.

And if healthcare in those nations is an issue, Mr Salesa said that perhaps the Government should address that issue too.

Immigration Minister Iain Lees Galloway said he only heard about the data collection system earlier this week.

"… If I got any suggestion that they were solely profiling people based on race, that would be unacceptable to me and we would deal with that," he said.

Mr Lees Galloway says the data isn't being shared internationally, but Mr Maka says it has the whiff of Donald Trump-style immigration policies.

Listen to the full interview with Professor Damon Salesa above. 

The Long Lunch with Wendyl Nissen, 12pm - 3pm on RadioLIVE and streaming live to the rova app on Android and iPhone.