Probe into deportation firm
New Zealand Herald
Monday October 23, 2006
By Maggie McNaughton
Immigration Minister David Cunliffe has ordered a report on allegations that a South African company employed by the Government to deport African overstayers has used questionable travel documents.
One News reported last night that the Government had been criticised by an Australian human rights group for paying thousands of dollars to Synman and Migliore, also known as SMI, and parent company P&I, which they say use questionable travel documents in order to return Africans home.
Australian refugee advocate Phil Glendinning said: “We have examples where this organisation has provided documents to people who are being deported that are … clearly false. That puts them [the deportees] at great risk and this information is being used to deceive the officials of another sovereign state. Now that's a tactic used by people smugglers.”
The company denied the allegations, including one that it sedated deportees.
SMI head Wilhelm Synman emailed One News saying that some Africans from border regions qualified for two passports. He said that if the documents he provided were not legal, they would not be accepted by airlines and airports in Africa.
One News said Immigration New Zealand had used the company 22 times in the past five years.
It was thought to have paid around $12,000 to SMI to deport each individual and in June had paid the firm more than $250,000.
A spokesman for Mr Cunliffe said last night the minister had asked the Department of Labour, which overseas immigration, for a report on the allegations.
The firm had been used by many countries including Canada, Australia and the US to return between 7000 and 10,000 people to Africa.
He said the department had never had any issues with the company.