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Immigration Minister Iain-Lees Galloway’s refusal to investigate how widespread visa fraud is among Sri Lankan students is another example of Labour going soft on things Kiwis care about, National’s Immigration spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says.

“Immigration New Zealand is currently investigating a major visa scam involving Sri Lankan student applications, including the potential involvement of education agents in Sri Lanka.

“Documents released to me under the Official Information Act show that in March officials advised Mr Lees-Galloway of a serious matter relating to student visa applications from Sri Lanka.

“Fraudulent behaviour was discovered in 88 pending applications and 83 were declined on those grounds, with a finance company frequently used by Sri Lankan applicants at the centre of the fraud.

“But Mr Lees-Galloway is refusing to investigate how much further it goes, and review the hundreds of past visas given to Sri Lankan students.

“This is the same Minister who in Opposition cried foul on every decision the previous Government made on immigration and stated we ‘desperately need to take a breather’ on migration. Now he can’t even be bothered to dig into this very serious matter.

“When I asked how many applications were received in 2017 where the same finance company was used, Mr Lees-Galloway claimed that the effort required to answer would require substantial collation which he thought was not in the public interest.

“In a follow-up question, he admitted that no investigation was underway into how widespread the fraud was. This is lazy and unacceptable.

“By my estimate there could be hundreds, if not thousands, of applications approved where fraudulent documentation was supplied. Surely it is in the public interest to know how widespread the fraud is.

“Our immigration system relies in part on the honesty of the applicants, but also on targeting and eliminating fraud when it occurs.

“Mr Lees-Galloway should be ordering an investigation into how widespread the offending is to reassure the public that he isn’t just talk when it comes to the integrity of the system.”

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