Thursday, February 19, 2009

Absolutely outrageous

That's the only way to describe the behaviour of immigration officials reported in the Herald this morning in forcing their way into someone's home. Here's the full description:

Mr Delamere, a former immigration minister, said officials needed to process travel documents to send 5-year-old New Zealand-born Eason Diao to China with his parents, who are overstayers.

But when his mother did not let them, the officials allegedly entered their home, grabbed Eason off the couch as he was watching television, pushed him against the wall and snapped the photographs they needed for the entry permit into China.

It was also alleged that the officials then made Ms Hao sign a handwritten letter they had written in poor English, stating that she wanted to take Eason, a New Zealand citizen, back to China to learn Chinese for three months.

Actually, I can think of another word: "unlawful". The police have powers of entry and search under the Immigration Act; immigration officers don't. They do have the power to require people in New Zealand unlawfully to surrender travel documents, and to require third parties to produce them if they are being hidden somewhere, but these powers apply only to existing documents. They absolutely cannot invade someone's home and photograph a minor - and a New Zealand citizen, at that - or force someone to sign a false declaration in order to kick them out of the country.

The immigration officials responsible for this abuse should be charged and prosecuted with breaking and entering, assault, and kidnapping. Then they should be fired. As for the department, it needs to take a long, hard look at itself, and the reasons for this growing culture of lawlessness and unaccountability among its staff - and take positive steps to eradicate it.