22 Dec 2015

Is Australia pressuring NZ immigration officials, bikie asks

11:00 am on 22 December 2015

An Australian bikie denied entry to New Zealand is questioning whether Australia is putting pressure on New Zealand immigration officials.

Rebels motorcycle gang flag and bikes, Australia.

Photo: AAP

John Millar belongs to the Rebels Motorcycle Club, which Australian authorities have cracked down on, and some New Zealand members are currently fighting Australian deportation orders.

The 34-year-old said he had travelled to New Zealand three times before without any problem but it was a different story when he arrived on 2 December.

On arrival, he said a big red "F" was written on his incoming card and comments were made about his neck tattoos before customs pulled him aside for a search.

"They went through my stuff and found my club colours and club shirts and laid them all out," he said.

"They asked me a few questions and I had nothing to hide so I told them I was there for a motorcycle ride... I had my helmet with me, I was wearing actual motorcycle pants. I was travelling very light because I was basically there for a few days to ride around the South Island."

Mr Millar said after waiting an hour or so, he was read section 16 of the Immigration Act 2009 and told he would not be allowed into the country because he was allegedly part of a criminal organisation.

Section 16 states that entry permission may not be granted if there is reason to believe the person is likely to commit an offence in New Zealand that is punishable by imprisonment, or if that person is deemed a threat to public interest.

Mr Miller said he was taken to Christchurch Central Police Station and told he would be able to have a shower and call his family to tell them he was alright.

"I was put in a cell, they turned the light off and that was it basically... until the next morning when I finally got someone's attention to ask what was going on.

"They came and got me about three o'clock. But no shower, they didn't even worry about putting toilet paper in there for me."

He was then put on a plane back to Brisbane.

"I have no criminal history and then they say that I'm part of a criminal club and more likely to commit a crime. But I'm 34 years old. Is that not long enough to prove that I haven't committed a crime and I'm not going to commit a crime."

"I didn't expect it. I expect it from our government because they're just out of control over here [in Australia]. Whether it's our government making you guys do it too... I'm not sure what the go is. It could be a little bit of payback and if it is payback then I'm grateful I didn't get locked up for longer."

Despite everything, Mr Millar said he would love to come back to New Zealand and would be happy to apply for what's called a "special direction" waiver to do so.

'Not desirable'

Immigration New Zealand assistant general manager Peter Devoy told Morning Report Mr Millar's deportation was part of a concerted effort to hold the line against gang members, even when they had committed no crime.

Organised motorcycle gangs, although not outlawed, were generally not in the public interest.

"It's a position that is being taken across government that gangs are criminal organisations and it's not desirable that people who are gang members and members of criminal organisations will be welcome into New Zealand."

But Council for Civil Liberties secretary Kevin McCormack said Mr Millar appeared to have been treated without basic humanity, and it was a denial of human rights for such a blanket assessment to be made.

It was a poor decision given Mr Millar has been to New Zealand before without any incident, Mr McCormack said.

Last month it was revealed former Lance Corporal Ko Haapu's visa had been cancelled by the Australian government on character grounds - as set out in Section 501 of the Australian Migration Act - because he was also a member of the Rebels Motorcycle Club.

He is currently being held in a Perth prison, despite having no criminal convictions in Australia or New Zealand.

And a former Rebels bikie boss jailed for trafficking methamphetamine is fighting deportation to New Zealand.

Colin David Picard, 69, faces being deported once he has served his 18-month prison sentence.

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