Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse has asked officials to investigate the whereabouts of Tongan nationals who may have come to New Zealand after their criminal convictions were wrongly stated by Tongan authorities.
“I am extremely concerned about this situation and have asked Immigration New Zealand to place the highest priority on finding any Tongan nationals who have committed serious crimes and should not be in New Zealand,” says Mr Woodhouse.
INZ has completed an initial analysis of 172 names provided by the Tongan authorities and estimate around 40 people may be currently in New Zealand, including some who hold permanent residence.
“The figures are only provisional at this time and more details will be known over the coming days. I am satisfied the Tongan authorities are now doing everything they can to assist in our investigations.
“While it appears the majority of people on the list have committed only minor offences, it is clear is that a number of Tongan nationals are in New Zealand on the basis of incorrect declarations regarding their criminal convictions.
“It is totally unacceptable for anyone to enter New Zealand by providing misleading information and I am taking this very seriously.
“An immediate hold has been put on Tongan visa applications that require a police clearance until INZ can be satisfied with the integrity of the police clearance process”.
Applications for residence and most work visas need a police certificate, but this is not needed for short term visas such as a visitor visa.
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