Today we are publishing another reply to our invitation to give us your New Zealand exit interviews.
If you are a Romanian national planning to study in or visit New Zealand your may like to read how one Romanian couple was made to feel like criminals before being unceremoniously thrown out of New Zealand by officials at Auckland international airport.
Veronica wants to get her story out and is willing to talk to the media about her treatment in New Zealand.
My name is ******* and 2 months ago I started considering studying in New Zealand.
One month ago I was accepted at one university in New Zealand for a Graduate Diploma and qualified for the same program at another institute. I was more interested in the second program, school told me I qualify but I needed to come to New Zealand asap as classes start at the end of October. I email Immigration NZ asking them if I can come as a tourist and apply for my student visa from inside the country and they confirmed yes, I can. .
On 22 september I arrived at Auckland Airport with my husband very excited for visiting and going to school in New Zealand. I was given a 3 month tourist visa which I asked for in order to arrange with the school details for my program, pay the fees and visit the great outdoors new Zealand has. 1 hours later I find myself at the immigration office my passport being withheld , not allowed to leave the airport and having the most traumatizing experience of my life. What I mean by that is hearing a customs officer walking in the immigration office and saying: NO MORE ROMANIANS. My husband and I are both Romanians.. Clearly that comment was made about us..
At Immigration office in Auckland Airport 3 people out of 5 held there were Romanians. The other two were held because they brought more cigarettes than allowed by customs. Consequences for holding romanian passports: 10 hours of interrogation , part of my documents withheld by immigration, sleep deprived for another 24 hours ( after a 36 hour long flight) . during the interrogation I showed immigration all my documents and explained why I should be let into the country: I had the acceptance letter from school, I had correspondence back and forth with another school which I was interested in ,email from Immigration that I can come as a visitor first, proof of funds to pay for school which costs 17 000 NZD, money to support ourselves while in New Zealand, hotel reservation made and places I wanted to visit as a tourist.
My husband was interrogated separately by another officer and part of his interview was asked questions like: where he has worked 8 years ago, why he left the job, who lives now in the accommodation we used to rent and other questions that had nothing to do with my studies in my opinion. This may sound weird to you but I have all our interviews taped and transcripts. Firstly we were told that we have the right to have a copy of the recording and the transcripts. later immigration supervisor changed her mind and wanted to give us only the transcripts. we managed to get both transcripts and tapes and I’m amazed how big chunks of my declaration are cut from the transcripts and relevant information is misinterpreted. . My english is not perfect but I can make myself understood even after 2 days of traveling and 24 more hours spent at immigration. the supervisor ‘s decision was made based solely on the transcript
There are a few facts that I would like to make public from this experience which I consider to be traumatizing . When we arrived at the airport the officer who made the comment : NO MORE ROMANIANS is the officer who pulled my husband aside. We were brought in front of another officer for a short interview. after explaining our reason to be in New Zealand he declared: I am satisfied, sounds good to me but I don’t understand what do they want from you ( referring to customs and immigration). We were taken at immigration office for some checks that “would last about 10 minutes” 12 hours later I am answering the same questions , i am fingerprinted videotaped and recorded.
We were not allowed to leave the airport and could go eat only after asking for permission. while in the airport we had to wear a sticker on our body so security would know we are referred at immigration. sarcastic enough, people working in duty free shops would refer to us as: hey, you are being sent back home. That is humiliating. being looked at as criminals. but that’s not exactly what happened.
I am being sent back to Russia not my home country, because that ‘s all Immigration could arrange for.Russia was the first stop on my way to New Zealand. from there I have to arrange tickets to my home country. If I were to refuse this flight, I would be in custody and escorted with handcuffs to Romania. I am talking here about two people with no criminal record, who have travelled to many places around the world and never had any problems but treated as criminals by Immigration New Zealand. I think a major abuse was made, I would like to make my story public and share documents that I have. Immigration New Zealand was kind enough to let us call our embassy but provided us with the wrong number. We eventually managed to get the right number and put in a complaint. But I would like to go further and share this with other institutions and newspapers , blogs.
Our visa was cancelled and could come back to New Zealand only with permission.
I strongly believe that our refusal to entry the country was based on racism. Immigration apologized and explained to us that the officer who made the comment ” NO MORE ROMANIANS” is from another department. To me is much the same as they work hand in hand : Immigration and Customs. And it was the first impact that I had with New Zealand: discrimination. Even if they tried to absolve themselves from this matter and put the blame on another department my question is: would you share such a harsh comment with someone who wouldn’t have the same views? Would you say : “NO MORE ROMANIANS” to an entire department who should be impartial if they wouldn’t agree with you? I think not. I think the comment made a clear impact on my refusal , especially in the way it was made: on an imperative tone.
Again, I can backup everything written above with documentation and I am hoping to put a stop on this discriminatory behavior from authorities.
Again, I came to New Zealand to study, to spend 17000 NZD from my own pocket to pay for school, had a letter of acceptance, Ielts test , return paid airfare, hotel booking and knowledge of New Zealand points of interested I wanted to visit.
Today is September 23 and I am at Seoul Incheon Airport. My passport was given back to me and in 19 hours we will depart to Moscow but by that time I will get home to Romania I hope my story will get around the globe so others won’t have to experience this. By sharing my story I would like other people who were in similar situation to come forward with their story so we can bring attention to this matter.