Your Exit Interview – “No More Romanians”

Romanian couple made to feel like criminals at Auckland airport.

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.

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14 thoughts on “Your Exit Interview – “No More Romanians”

  1. I do not understand your issues. If you come from east Europe you simply not welcome in NZ. Take it as a reality and stop dreaming.

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  2. @veronicavv Good for you,they do this because they think they can get away with it and I am sure they have gotten away with it before.

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  3. @ P Ray
    Because it was a Saturday when we arrived,I assume Immigration could not get in touch with the school to confirm I will be studying, but again, I showed them the acceptance letter, correspondence with the school and my documents that I qualify for studies. So that was not a reason to deny entry.
    And no, we could not make “personal calls” from immigration office. We could only call our embassy. If we wanted to call someone we had to go to the departure area, wear the Immigration sticker on our body and use a pay phone. with permission.

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    • What I find ridiculous is that NZ has no provision for people from different time zones to get in touch with university representatives … just before courses start. ‘Cause that’s when stress levels are highest, just before student enrolment and course commencement.
      Then again, people not willing to meet clients halfway to expedite their NZ experience … says a lot about how seriously they take client satisfaction.

      I assume Immigration could not get in touch with the school to confirm I will be studying
      I “know that feel”, I’ve certainly stood up to some ridiculous requests from authority before, but I suppose when being in a new country, one thinks they’ll be treated fairly as new arrivals.

      the officer told us that we can’t basically sue them because we are not in New Zealand and that we will receive information about our file only at the discretion of the department. “sensitive” information will be deleted.
      Heh, let the court of public opinion decide that. Students just trying to get their education started in NZ should not be treated like criminals.

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  4. Hello everyone,

    and thank you for posting your thoughts on this. I put in complaints to every institution that should be concerned on this matter. Also, I have been in touch with Michael Dickinson from NZ Herald since I left Auckland and he wants to publish this. Hopefully this will reach the right person and something can be done, I lost this year’s school intake literally everywhere, 3000 NZD in airfare.
    At the gate of departure from New Zealand the officer told us that we can’t basically sue them because we are not in New Zealand and that we will receive information about our file only at the discretion of the department. “sensitive” information will be deleted.I know he was trying to discourage us. But I will definitely go forward with this because someone needs to be responsible and not to play with people’s future, as in my case, I have to wait another year to go to school, definitely not in NZ.

    Veronica

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    • Veronica, it is awful that this thing happened to you, our deepest condolences for the horrible way in which you were treated.

      Thank you for having the courage to tell your story and we wish you well in your fight to be compensated for your extensive losses.

      Keep in touch and let us know how things go.

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  5. This is completely crap what NZIS did to you; have you emailed NZ Herald of somebody at stuff.co.nz yet? I do not think stuff.co.nz will but there is somebody at the NZ herald that often writes about the plights of the immigrants in NZ and I am sure he will be interested in this but sorry I do not recall his name or email but perhaps the kind admin of this page knows.

    There is silver lining to this….. NZ is full of people like the people at the NZ immigration that would make your life hell; try schools in Australia?, USA? or Canada? those 3 countries are just 3 of the many that offer better schooling; people and scenery not to mention the cost of living is cheaper than in NZ.

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  6. Having all the communications between you and the university is one thing.
    The other is the student handbook.
    Since they have accepted you as a student, I am surprised why they did not intervene in this dispute.
    If you were denied access to a telephone, this case can definitely go further legally.
    You were illegally detained, put out of pocket for the cost of fares that you were unaware of, and not given the option of consular aid or outside contact.
    Get in touch with a legal representative for further information, I do hope you have the names of the staff who spoiled your journey.
    Trust me, unlike what I was told in university during the orientation day … New Zealanders do conduct lawsuits. No reason why you should not behave in kind, towards those who have very deliberately and maliciously held you back.
    Best of luck!

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  7. Veronica, you must file a complaint with the European Union. What NZ did is against international agreements and laws. The reason why they acted like this there were some visitors from Romania lately who engaged in criminal activity and now all Romanians are considered criminals. That is the small minded thinking of most people in this country. People here are not self-confident or open minded even though they will not miss a chance to pretend otherwise. For your conciliation the NZ school system is of low standards and no good teachers available either because where should it come from. NZ is a small place of farmers with 30 million sheep at the end of the world with mainly primary industry and no history of design, engineering, art etc. The population is aging and the bright ones move to Australia for better life. So what’s left behind are the pensioners and lower than average performers. All what they focus on here is squeeze as much money out of international students and visitors as possible. After that they are happy when you leave as soon as possible. There is no culture of natural hospitality in New Zealand. And you would not make any Kiwi-friends either. Even the crime rate in NZ is higher than in most EU-countries and every day women get raped people get murdered in this so “peaceful” paradise. Last year December for instance a 5 year old girl from Belgium got raped on camp ground while the parents went for a short walk. You are much better off visiting and spending your money in better places. And believe me NZ is not as beautiful as most people think. So Veronica after all consider yourself lucky that the xenophobic Kiwis did not want you. Publish it in Europe and complain to the EU in Brussels and send it to news@tvnz.co.nz as well. Wish you all the best, Peter

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    • Thank you for your comments Peter. Do you know what kind of criminal activity visitors from Romania were engaged in?

      What proportion of foreign crime in New Zealand is committed by Romanians and was this action warranted?

      We’d also be interested in data for the number of Romanian tourists and visitors who visit New Zealand every year and their proportion of the total number of arrivals.

      Veronica said she strongly believes that “our refusal to entry the country was based on racism.” We’d like to find out if there’s any validity to that claim and if any other nationalities may be being profiled at NZ border posts.

      If anyone else has a personal experience they wish to share please contact us. Please read our comments guidelines

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      • http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/7805311/Hundreds-stopped-from-entering-New-Zealand

        “Malaysian nationals make up the highest number of those refused entry – 110 during the 2011/12 financial year.

        Fifty-six South Koreans, 43 South Africans, 38 Hong Kong passport holders, 37 Brazilians and 36 Romanians were refused entry at New Zealand airports.

        More than half of those refused entry were considered not to be genuine visitors”

        Does that mean almost 50% of people refused entry were genuine visitors?

        It’s a long way to fly for a holiday, why bother running the risk of getting turned back just because your face doesn’t fit? There are better places to visit.

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