Greens warn that innocent people will be barred from NZ

The use of a United States database for New Zealand’s Advance Passenger Processing system raises serious concerns, the Green Party says.

The New Zealand Security Intelligence Service is reported today to have signed an agreement with the United States giving it direct access to its intelligence database, Human Rights Spokesperson Keith Locke says.

“This could easily lead to many innocent people being stopped from getting on planes coming to New Zealand.

“The United States has a pretty loose definition of who is a security threat. Thousands of people were imprisoned after the destruction of the World Trade Centre, but hardly anyone ever brought to trial. US authorities have admitted that many of those detained at Guantanamo Bay were no threat to America.

“We have already had one case of a New Zealand citizen being unjustly affected. In 2004 Mohammad Abbas had a remittance to his family in India stopped when his name popped up in the US Homeland Security system. He had been confused with another Mohammed Abbas who may or may not have been a security threat.

“The Greens are not against New Zealand getting intelligence from overseas, as long as it is properly checked at the New Zealand end. That checking would be difficult if the names of people about to fly here were fed into an American database,” Mr Locke says.

“Under present law non-residents stopped from getting on to a plane to New Zealand have no right to know why. Those wrongly discriminated against in Advanced Passenger Processing have to suspend travel here while they go through an often complicated process of proving they are not a security risk.

“The progress of the Advance Passenger Processing system is already making it difficult for any asylum seeker to get here. The number of people applying for asylum at New Zealand airports has plummeted to 54 in the 2006/07 year,” Mr Locke says.