OPINION: Offering a fair go, not a free ride

SHARE

By Andrew Falloon

In New Zealand we pride ourselves on being a pretty fair country. We like to give people a fair go, but not a free ride.

That’s why the Government’s decision to grant Karel Sroubek residency is so baffling. He’s had more than a fair go and now he’s getting a completely undeserved free ride.

Sroubek is a convicted drug smuggler with gang associations. He came to New Zealand on a false passport. How he has managed to convince the Government to let him stay is incomprehensible.

Recently it was revealed the Immigration Minister had intervened to allow Sroubek to stay in New Zealand when he is released from prison rather than have him sent back to his native Czech Republic, even though the Parole Board refused to grant him parole in the meantime.

Despite the immense public interest and making a decision contrary to the public safety of New Zealanders, the Government is refusing to explain why.

When the story first came to public attention, the minister claimed he had “considered carefully” Mr Sroubek’s case before approving residency and that it was “not a decision I have made lightly”.

We now know that isn’t true. Last week he admitted to making the decision less than an hour after receiving the file. Worse, he’s confessed to not even reading all the material contained in the file, only “parts” of it.

That’s an appalling process to make such an important decision, and New Zealanders deserve to know why their safety has been put at risk.

There’s been a suggestion it’s unsafe for Sroubek to return to the Czech Republic. That might well be a valid reason, except we know he’s travelled there from New Zealand several times since his arrest.

People from all around the world want to live and work in New Zealand because of the opportunities here. They bring immense benefits to New Zealand, from skills and capital to new ideas and international connections.

As your local member of Parliament I’ve dealt with more than 130 immigration cases in recent months. The vast majority are genuine, law-abiding people, with jobs and deep roots in South Canterbury, having their visas declined and being sent away for no good reason.

Heart-breaking stories of people who have lived here for years, made a contribution, and are now being told they have to leave.

I work on their behalf, and as a last resort sometimes make a direct appeal to the Immigration Minister

Unfortunately, many of them are forced to leave, people who have become part of our community, been our neighbours or served on the local PTA.

Meanwhile that same minister intervened to grant residency to a convicted drug smuggler and fraudster with known links to organised crime, without even bothering to read the file.

Something stinks here and it’s up to the Government to tell us why.

It’s not good enough that they throw up their hands and divert attention elsewhere.

Not while people we need in this district who deserve to be here are being sent away.

Andrew Falloon is the MP for Rangitata.