Immigration Minister puts 'ethnic profiling' pilot programme on hold

Immigration Minister puts 'ethnic profiling' pilot programme on hold
Photo credit: Getty

An Immigration NZ pilot programme accused of racial profiling has been put on hold.

That's despite briefing documents provided by Immigration NZ insisting racial profiling did not happen under the programme.

The agency admitted collecting data to determine how likely an over-stayer is to use hospital resources or commit immigration fraud.

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway says a briefing about the pilot programme made clear "race and country of origin are not criteria they use" when making deportation decisions.

He said claims of a "sophisticated algorithm" and "racial profiling" were incorrect.

But he said until Immigration NZ meets with the Privacy and Human Rights commissioners, use of the spreadsheet tool will be suspended.

The briefing paper, written by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and released under the Official Information Act, says Immigration NZ "does not consider nationality - and never has done.

"There is no racial or ethnic profiling undertaken in deportation activity and there never has been," it says.

The briefing says the following criteria are considered in prioritising deportation: "age, sex, visa status, the number of applications made, unlawful history, residence application outcome, skill level, fraud in previous applications, address, deportation status and other (character concerns, identity concerns, etc.)"

The document says Immigration NZ prioritises for deportation "people who are engaged in criminality" or who "pose a risk" to the integrity of the immigration system.