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31/10/2018 — Economics, Politics and Government
The deflection of an immigration affair
By Dene Mackenzie

The many people hoping to become New Zealand citizens, including those who have been turned away, despite a compelling case, must be wondering at the recent decision made by Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway.

New Zealanders have been vocal in their demands for Lees-Galloway to explain just how he came to his decision to grant a resident visa to convicted drug-smuggler and gang associate Karel Sroubek.

The Minister has been under pressure since it emerged he offered conditional resident to Sroubek being found guilty of using a fake passport and is currently serving a prison term for smuggling MDMA, commonly known as ecstasy.

The National Party says it would have deported Sroubek if it was in power and has called on Lees-Galloway to resign if he cannot justify his decision.

The Minister is not going to resign because Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is standing behind him, saying it is easy to criticise decisions without all the relevant information.

That being so, the Government will be well advised to provide some of the relevant information. There are hints Sroubek will be in danger if he returns to his native Czech Republic from where he came to New Zealand on a fake passport.

The man is no angel, despite being associated with the Hell’s Angels, in New Zealand.

The opposition National Party says it would not have let a kick-boxing, fraudster, gang associate drug dealer into New Zealand. No ifs or buts.

Sroubek came to New Zealand in 2003 after fleeing corrupt police who wanted him to lie and clear the main suspect in a murder investigation.

He fled with a false passport but his identity was revealed in 2009 when Czech police gave New Zealand police details of his identity and an arrest warrant on minor charges in connection with the 2003 murder.

At the time of his trial, the judge said Sroubek would be in danger from corrupt Czech authorities if he was deported. He was discharged without conviction after being found guilty on using a fake passport.

The Government is in danger of losing credibility over this case, particularly because of the number of legitimate applications being turned away because one of the family has a pre-existing medical condition.

In one case, the father of a child with a medical condition offered to fund all the treatment of his son, should it become necessary. The Government said no, and returned the family to South Africa.

Interestingly, Deputy Prime Minister and New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters is claiming he is unaware of the circumstances. Peters was asked for a comment because of his strong views on immigration. It is doubtful the Sroubek case would have received any support from NZ First.

Immigration ministers in NZ have wide-ranging powers and independence. But still, it would have been wise for Lees-Galloway to have been more open with the public on this matter.

Just when the Government had National on the ropes as far as the ongoing Jami-Lee Ross debacle, Labour blows its advantage.

Right wing blogger Whaleoil is still leaking details from the office of National Party leader Simon Bridges about the situation where Ross ended up under medical care after receiving an unwelcome text from his former female MP lover.

Mainstream media are still refusing to name the woman, despite her name being well circulated on social media. National now has a chance to change the dialogue on to immigration and away from its failings over Ross.

*Dene Mackenzie is a Dunedin political commentator.

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Immigration Minister Ian Lees-Galloway. Photo: Zimbio.