​NZ Immigration rejects 'racial profiling' claims in visa data-modelling project

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway rejected the idea the big data project that is determining who should be shown the door is profiling people based on age, gender, or ethnicity.

The New Zealand government kicked off a pilot program 18 months ago that uses data collected through the country's visa application process to determine firstly those in breach of their visa conditions before deciding who should be asked to leave.

Speaking on Radio New Zealand this week, Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway explained that the process seeks people that are "over-stayers" or are in the country unlawfully due to breaching visa conditions, rather than filtering people based on their age, gender, and ethnicity.

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"This is not about trying to predict who will commit a crime, this is about looking at the over 11,000 people who are in New Zealand unlawfully and prioritising where best to use Immigration New Zealand's resources to make sure that they are deporting the people who impose the greatest risk to New Zealand," the minister said.

"We need to maintain the integrity of our immigration system and where people are in New Zealand unlawfully ... then we need to be doing everything we can to make sure these deportations go ahead."

Rejecting the idea the data-collection project is racial profiling, Lees-Galloway said Immigration looks at a range of issues, including at those who have made -- and have had rejected -- multiple visa applications.

"It looks at people who place the greatest burden on the health system, people who place the greatest burden on the criminal justice system, and uses that data to prioritise those people," he continued.

"It is important that we protect the integrity of our immigration system and that we use the resources that immigration has as effectively as we can -- I do support them using good data to make good decisions about where best to deploy their resources."

While the minister might support the department he oversees, he only became aware of the data-modelling project on Thursday morning when he received a briefing before his radio appearance.

"I am disappointed that I was not informed," he added.

"We do collect data -- obviously we do collect a lot of data when people make a visa application, there's nothing new about that, we also do have some data around people who are in New Zealand illegally who are making use of the health system and we do have some idea of who those people are and that's useful data to use when trying to determine which over-stayers Immigration New Zealand should use its resources to enforce those deportation liability notices on."

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