NZ to toughens up immigration laws

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New Zealand is looking to introduce tough new measures that will make it harder to enter the country and easier to deport people.

The Immigration Minister David Cunliffe unveiled the sweeping proposals April 5, and hopes that New Zealand will attract more skilled workers from overseas and keep out so called "undesirables."

Cunliffe says the changes will simplify and streamline the entry of migrants wanted in New Zealand, and enhance border security.

Key proposals in the 257 page Immigration Act Review Discussion Paper include changes to the visa system with officials given more power to make decisions on immigrants.

"The government plans to streamline the process for skilled immigrants to live and work here, and these changes would be announced later this year. The cap on skilled migrants was lifted last year from 41,000 to 51,000 and I believe it can be raised further," said Cunliffe.

The government plans to speed up the immigration process by replacing various entry permits with visas and combine all immigration appeal authorities into one body.

The minister said a review of the immigration system was needed to toughen up the system for getting rid of those New Zealand did not want, and then concentrating on increasing the number of skilled migrants.

Under the plans, Immigration Service staff would be allowed to detain immigrants at the airport for up to four hours without police presence, and enter the homes of illegal immigrants without the police present. People entering could be subject to fingerprinting, possible voluntary DNA sampling and biometric information to be introduced such as computerised iris scanning at the border.

Comments concerning the bill will be accepted until June 14, 2006 and the government aims to introduce the changes to parliament 2007.