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Fake asylum claims part of over 150 made in migrant ring


Nurul Noor Azman.

Nurul Noor Azman.
Photo: RNZ / Lucy Xia

An interpreter who fabricated refugee claims gave migrant workers false hope about having a future in New Zealand, according to immigration’s investigation team.

Nurul Noor Azman, 30, has been found guilty of supplying false information in five cases.

They were five of 158 asylum claims that investigators found when they started looking at similar claims made by a group of Indonesian and Malaysian workers.

Most claimed they were in danger from loan sharks – more than 100 of the claims were a fear of gangsters – or from involvement in pyramid schemes.

Some had used identical wording to outline their fear and all but two of the completed cases have been withdrawn or dismissed.

Immigration officials said they noticed striking similarities between the cases which “appeared to be part of a deliberate scheme seeking to exploit New Zealand’s refugee and protection system”.

They all lived in the same city, had the same legal representative and some lived at the same address.

The Immigration and Protection Tribunal (IPT), which heard appeals in some cases turned down by refugee officers, ruled the migrants were motivated by earning money here rather than because of fear of returning to their home country.

An investigation in Australia has found similar schemes where migrants were able to get work rights by filing bogus asylum claims.

The Age reported this month authorities have linked a migration agency to dozens of unmeritorious claims, including at least 15 made by convicted Vietnamese drug offenders.

Azman’s trial

Following Azman’s trial at Auckland District Court, Immigration New Zealand said Azman manipulated migrants and the system when she helped five people to make up stories about persecution, threats and violence. There was no suggestion she was involved in the wider number of migrants who lodged false claims.

Immigration’s acting compliance manager Karen Bishop said Azman, who was on a working holiday visa and working as an interpreter at an Auckland law firm, was charging them up to $600 each to make up the asylum stories.

The trial heard an investigation into exploitation of unlawful workers in Bay of Plenty kiwifruit orchards uncovered the offending two years ago, when Azman lived in a house of 13 migrants.

“She was working with these people, presenting herself as supporting and helping them and was in fact charging them to make up stories, that she convinced them would be plausible, to enable them to get refugee status within New Zealand,” Bishop said.

“This is the type of thing where people were vulnerable. They were really given false hope that on some fabrication, that they would then be able to settle in New Zealand.”

Azman’s behaviour was particularly cynical and took resources away from genuine refugees, she said.

She told Morning Report she could not discuss whether there were charges laid or investigations into the migrants themselves.

She urged anyone with concerns about migrants to call the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s contact centre on 0800 209020, police or CrimeStoppers.

Azman was due to be sentenced in February.

Asylum numbers

Asylum seekers differ from refugees who come through the annual 1500 person UNHCR quota, as they apply to be refugees once they are already in New Zealand.

Claimants from China and India have in recent years been higher than other nationalities, except in 2020/1 when Indonesians submitted more claims. China and Sri Lanka had the most successful claims last year.

Asylum numbers have varied between 300 and 500 over the last decade, but the number of approvals has decreased from 36 percent of claims in 2019/20 to 22 percent in the last financial year.

Immigration New Zealand said more people than usual had withdrawn their claims, which was included in the declined numbers. From July to the end of last month, the approval rate fell to 12 percent – with only 18 out of 108 approved in that period.

Most common source countries in the refugee quota recently have been Myanmar, Syria, Afghanistan, Colombia and Pakistan.

A change to government policy has also seen an increase in African refugees – from Eritrea, Democratic Republic of Congo and Somalia.



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