New Zealand introduces visa regulations for Czech nationals

08-12-2000

After Canada, Great Britain, and Belgium, New Zealand appears to have become a target country for Czech asylum seekers. On average, 11 Czechs who enter New Zealand every month apply for asylum, and close to 200 Czechs have requested asylum this year. None of their applications have been granted, and since this is apparently not deterring others, the New Zealand government has announced it is suspending its visa-free agreement with the Czech Republic. Daniela Lazarova has the story:

New Zealand Immigration Minister Lianne Dalziel announced on Friday that her country was tightening immigration rules for Thai and Czech citizens--the two largest groups of asylum seekers in the country. This restriction means that as of January 1, Thais and Czechs will have to obtain a visa before leaving home, rather than being granted three-month visitor permits when they arrive in New Zealand.

"The visa waiver programme was designed to facilitate travel for genuine visitors to New Zealand. We need to curb the flow of unfounded immigrants who are diverting valuable time and resources from genuine refugee claims," Minister Dalziel told reporters.

Andrew Barton is a New Zealander living in the Czech Republic. He explains more about his country's asylum policy:

In view of the fact that no Czech citizen has as yet been granted asylum in New Zealand and that the air fare is fairly expensive--close to 40,000 Czech crowns, or 1,000 USD--why has the flow of Czech asylum seekers not dried up yet?

There are two possible reasons: The asylum seekers either have friends or relatives in the country or they plan to get work illegally, until they are detected or until they are officially refused asylum by the authorities. Basically, they needn't even ask for asylum, just overstay their three-month visitor permit and find someone to employ them illegally. Apparently there are three spheres where this is fairly easy: the sex, clothes and building industries.

In re-introducing visas the New Zealand authorities are following the example of Canada and Belgium, where the measure proved effective. It is not clear whether the Czech Republic will reciprocate the move, but judging by its past actions it is unlikely to do so. As in the case of Canada and Belgium it will most likely press the authorities of New Zealand to lift the restrictions as soon as they are no longer necessary.

08-12-2000