Iain Lees-Galloway ‘just stuffed up’ – immigration lawyer

The AM Show 29/11/2018

Iain Lees-Galloway's handling of the Karel Sroubek case makes New Zealand look like a "banana republic", a veteran immigration lawyer argues.

The Immigration Minister reversed his decision to allow the convicted drug smuggler to stay in New Zealand, after taking into account details of the convictions Sroubek received in the Czech Republic - which weren't considered when he made the earlier call.

"I didn't look at that and say 'aha, he should be an excluded person'," Mr Lees-Galloway told reporters on Wednesday. "That wasn't something I was considering at the time."

After weeks of scrutiny of his handling of the case, Mr Lees-Galloway has apologised to his boss, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, but hasn't offered his resignation.

Marcus Beveridge, who runs Queen City Law, told The AM Show on Thursday Mr Lees-Galloway has to go.

"He's brought the portfolio into disrepute. He's also made the Immigration department the subject of red-hot vitriol on talkback over the last couple of weeks... There's a lot of really good people in the department, and he's made them look like a bunch of plonkers."

Mr Lees-Galloway initially said he made the call based on official advice, after only an hour of looking at the case file. Mr Beveridge, who has three decades' experience dealing with Immigration officials, finds that hard to believe.

"If you met them and you understood them, you'd think, 'These guys are smart guys.'... They do a good job. [Associate Minister of Immigration] Kris Faafoi does 90 percent, so the minister doesn't do much heavy lifting. The minister does very little heavy lifting. He only really gets involved in things like excluded person - major criminals and so on - where he actually exercises his discretion. In this case he just stuffed it up."

Rather than apologising to Ms Ardern, Mr Beveridge says Mr Lees-Galloway should apologise to Immigration staff and the nation.

"The report was comprehensive. He just stuffed up. He should have said, 'Look, I'm sorry,' and then most decent Kiwis would have said, 'Okay, we'll give you another crack.' Instead he's come out with this sort of arrogant position, looking like Moses reading a tablet, it's scripted and it's all spin. It's sort of House of Cards stuff.

"Our shit detectors, we all just go, 'Mate - come on.'"

The AM Show has invited Mr Lees-Galloway to get in touch and respond to Mr Beveridge's comments.

Sroubek plans to appeal the U-turn, still claiming his life would be in danger if he was deported home.

Watch the full interview with Marcus Beveridge above.

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