14 Mar 2013

Ombudsman inquiry raises new residency hopes

12:02 am on 14 March 2013

A Tongan community leader is calling for an inquiry into immigration service failures because he believes an ombudsman's report represents only the tip of the iceberg of immigrants who have been let down by the system.

The Chief Ombudsman Dame Beverley Wakem says overstayers were given inconsistent advice on the policy for filling Pacific residence quotas in 2004 and 2005 and some should have their cases reassessed.

The chair of the Auckland Tongan Advisory Council, Melino Maka, says many Pacific Islanders were badly advised but it was all swept under the carpet.

Mr Maka says many people remain here illegally or have been deported, some only three months ago, although they did the right thing at the time.

Immigration lawyer Richard Small says the failures at Immigration New Zealand mean more Pacific Islanders may be re-assessed for residence.

He says about 1000 people were denied visas in 2004, and many were deported while others simply gave up on gaining residence.

Immigration New Zealand has admitted the failings, and says it's now trying to contact people who may be eligible, to invite them to apply for a visa, and they will have three months to do that.

Mr Small says he hopes strong publicity will mean about 50 families come forward to reapply for visas.

Dame Beverley says after discussions with the department and its successor, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, Immigration New Zealand is inviting people who feel they were not fairly treated to submit a new visa request.