Thursday, May 01, 2014

A shitty reason to refuse entry to New Zealand

Back in February, Immigration banned rap group Odd Future from New Zealand, supposedly because they were a threat to "public order". Now, thanks to an OIA request lodged via FYI, we know the real reason: grubbing good PR for themselves:

[A] request made to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment under the Official Information Act for all advice on the decision has revealed [pdf] that border operations manager Karen Urwin was hopeful the decision would result in positive coverage of the government agency.

On Wednesday February 12 – days before Odd Future were due to perform at Western Springs Stadium, alongside Eminem – an email had been sent with high importance: “Anything (legal) we can use to stop these people from coming?”

In the email chain that followed, Urwin commented:

Given that this group’s intended appearance already has the lobby groups up in arms, our denying them entry will undoubtedly generate some media interest (shades of Mike Tyson,) however I think we have the opportunity to spin this in to a good news story for INZ. There is also the strong possibility that the group will make some very public (and offensive) protestations but in my view this will only serve to reinforce the appropriateness of our decision.

Another staff member agreed that it was “a good story for INZ”.

(Its also clear from the emails that the nature of their music was a factor in the decision - contrary to claims from Immigration that it was only about "public order". So they lied. Didn't Immigration staff used to be sacked for that sort of thing?)

No matter what you think of Odd Future, getting "a good news story for INZ" is a really shitty reason to ban someone from entry into New Zealand. And as later emails make clear, Odd Future may now be denied entry into other countries based on Immigration's censorship.

While names and addresses are redacted, excavating the email trail suggests the matter was brought to Immigration's attention by the police, who forwarded something on. That forwarded message is itself redacted for privacy reasons (which is bullshit, though it could likely be lawfully withheld under another clause), but as the police later show great interest in having Immigration contact lobby group Stop Demand of the ban, we can safely assume they were the original complainant.

There's a number of odd things about this response, most notably the use of s6(d) (to prevent danger to any person) rather than s9(2)(a) (privacy) to withhold the names of Immigration staff. Staff of other agencies don't get such protection, and the police never apply it to requests sent to them, so it says quite a lot about Immigration's siege mentality and inflated view of itself.