Immediate penalties for airlines that breach New Zealand immigration rules

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The New Zealand government has announced they are increasing their border protection by creating a new process to immediately penalize airlines that do not comply with their obligations under the Immigration Act.

"With more than 4.5 million people flying into New Zealand every year, it's important that we protect our borders and encourage compliance with the law," says New Zealand Immigration Minister Nathan Guy. "This new regime will have penalties ranging from $500 to $5000, depending on the breach of the Immigration Act."

Currently, if airlines do not follow immigration protocol they may be subject to court prosecution, but that takes time and money for the government. Therefore, under this new process, Guy said that the government will take immediate action at the time of the offence.

"These changes strike the right balance between encouraging compliance with the law, and imposing a fair and reasonable cost on the airlines which fail to comply. Most airlines do a very good job of meeting their requirements, but we need to recognise the seriousness of not doing so. It can result in people entering New Zealand to work illegally, people trafficking, or costs to our health system," he added.

This change will bring New Zealand in line with Australia, Canada, the UK and the US, who all currently impose penalties for airlines for breaches of their immigration obligations.

The Board of Airline Representatives voiced their concern about the penalties. Executive director John Beckett said the new system is unnecessary and may result in airlines being severely punished for minor breaches.

"We're hoping that the Immigration Department can establish some guidelines where the airlines know where they stand and where the discretion will be exercised," he said.

This new penalty process is expected to come into effect this July.

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