Heather Roy

2 November 2018

“Tough rules see migrants give up and go home” was the headline in the NZ Herald in March this year. Even with badly needed skills it is becoming harder to get residency in New Zealand – unless, it seems you are a Czech born drug dealer currently serving prison time, who traveled to NZ on a false passport, is a Hells Angels associate and is wanted for crimes back home. The bizarre situation of Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway having a deportation order in front of him and instead deciding to grant the prisoner residency has baffled media and the public alike this week.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told us all that we should “read between the lines”. But as the week has progressed with journalists (thankfully) unearthing more and more information about this less than upstanding fellow it appears she and her Immigration Minister are the ones failing to read between the lines.

Immigration cases, for the most part, are tough. Migrants, who have come to our beautiful country and want to stay, are frequently denied the opportunity to settle in NZ because they don’t meet the immigration rules. These cases are amongst the hardest and saddest of cases seen my Members of Parliament in their electorate offices. Good people, skilled, active contributors to their communities are forced to go home, which is why the saga of Karel Sroubek is completely bizarre.

I saw plenty of worthy cases in my electorate office, but most were not able to stay in this country which they’d come to love and think of as home. I’m still occasionally asked to help migrants with their immigration issues. One particular guy sticks in my mind. He was a former soldier who had deployed several times with his home country army. Suffering from PTSD he was eventually discharged with a livable pension. He found his way to New Zealand, fell in love with the place and settled in a provincial town. He actively engaged in therapy and took on voluntary part-time jobs in the hope that his visa status would change and allow him to be in paid employment but was supporting himself financially. So as not to breach the provisions of his visa he left New Zealand twice while he reapplied for subsequent visas and residency. Applications for residency were declined as he didn’t meet the skills criteria. I helped him make an appeal to the Associate Minister of Immigration who had the power to grant a special decision.  Sadly for him and the community he’d become part of he had to leave permanently.

So many stories, so little consistency in decision making. I’m not saying it is easy, but the Sroubek case makes it hard to have faith in the way in which immigration decisions are made.

The media have done their job well. In the absence of transparency from the Minister they have researched and unearthed the facts the public should know. If fairness is the test, those making this residency decision have failed.

In the March article Lees-Galloway said the Government remained committed to making sure the immigration system works for New Zealand. I’ve yet to find anyone who believes Karel Sroubek works for New Zealand, yet so many of those who have had to leave permanently could have.

I’ve always thought a reasonable test is this: Would this person be a good neighbour? Would I be happy to have him or her living next door to my family? I wonder how Minister Lees-Galloway would feel about Karel Sroubek moving in next door.