Immigration authorities are defending their decision to refuse entry to an Australian couple's au pair, but admit it was unfortunate the French 18-year-old had to spend a night in police cells.
Au pair Manon Pache was refused a visitor's visa when she arrived at Queenstown Airport in December with her Australian employers, Pip and Paul Johnston, and their two pre-school children.
The Johnstons, from Tenterfield in New South Wales, said they had offered Miss Pache a week off in Australia or she could accompany them to New Zealand on holiday where she could look after the children "as a friend outside of work hours", the Otago Daily Times reports.
However, Immigration New Zealand wasn't buying that and Miss Pache was refused an entry visa, held in a police cell overnight and put on a return flight the next day.
Pip Johnston, a veterinarian, was upset with how Miss Pache was treated -- and described the Immigration office as "incredibly rude and unreasonable".
"You've got a young kid going to a foreign country ... she was absolutely terrified," she told the paper.
But Immigration NZ says Miss Pache would have been working on a visitor's visa.
Work is defined as any activity undertaken for gain or reward, says national board manager Senta Jehle.
"Given that Miss Pache's accommodation and travel had been provided to her in exchange for undertaking child care activities this would have constituted work," she said in a statement.
It was unfortunate that Miss Pache was in police custody while she waited for the next available flight the following day, Ms Jehle said.
Regrettably Immigration NZ had no facilities to accommodate passengers at Queenstown, Wellington or Christchurch airports when they were closed and police custody was the only option, she said.
It was not ideal but the agency was looking at other options.