Immigration Service fails to provide adequate information about nature of its investigation

Ombudsmen Act 1975
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Ombudsmen Act 1975
Hon Anand Satyanand
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Immigration New Zealand allegedly unfair processing of refugee quota cases—INZ initially did not uphold complaint following own departmental investigation—complainant not satisfied his concerns were seriously investigated—Ombudsman found complainant should have been more fully informed of nature and extent of inquiries made       

The complainant had made certain allegations about the refugee quota selection and decision-making process as this related to refugees from a particular country.  As a result, the New Zealand Immigration Service agreed to conduct:  

  • an internal investigation to verify the fair and correct selection and processing of refugee quota candidates from that country; and      

  • an external investigation to determine whether there was evidence to substantiate the allegations of dishonesty which had been made against certain Service officials.      

The internal investigation found no evidence of unfairness or incorrect processing, and the complainant was advised of this by the Service.  However, as insufficient information was provided to him in respect of the conclusion that his allegations could not be sustained, the complainant was not satisfied that his concerns had been properly investigated, and he complained under the Ombudsmen Act 1975 about the adequacy of that investigation.      

The documents relating to the internal investigation disclosed that the complainant's allegations had been seriously addressed, with discussions being held with relevant Service managers and staff, and steps being taken to:      

  • identify the process used in refugee quota selection;      

  • establish a ‘recommended’ process for refugee quota selection;

  • apply the recommended process to files to ascertain whether the process was ‘robust, properly recorded and adhered to’;      

  • address questions raised in an auditor's report;      

  • identify the process used in dealing with complaints and allegations;      

  • determine what process was used in dealing with the complainant's allegations;      

  • confirm the adequacy or otherwise of the investigation of those allegations; and

  • prepare a report for the General Manager on the findings of the investigation.      

It was confirmed that the procedure and policy used for refugee selection was taken from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Resettlement Handbook.  Recommendations were, however, made in relation to certain administrative matters, and those recommendations were being implemented by the Service.      

The documents relating to the investigation also disclosed that the complainant's allegations had been investigated as far as was possible in the absence of specific details or supporting evidence from him.  However, while it seemed clear that his concerns had been taken seriously by the Service, the nature and extent of its investigation were not apparent from the letter that was sent to the complainant, which simply advised that his allegations had been investigated but not substantiated.  No information was provided as to the nature of the inquiries that were conducted, the findings that were made, or the basis of those findings.      

The Service acknowledged that it should have provided the complainant with an explanation of the steps taken to address the issues raised, and what those steps disclosed, and expressed its willingness to provide this information to the complainant.  

This case note is published under the authority of the Ombudsmen Rules 1989. It sets out an Ombudsman’s view on the facts of a particular case. It should not be taken as establishing any legal precedent that would bind an Ombudsman in future.

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