NZ immigration policy driving spike in scams: lawyer

Updated August 10, 2012 00:12:23

Strict immigration requirements in New Zealand are driving more Pacific Islanders to fall victim to visa scams, a Wellington-based immigration lawyer says.

It is estimated around 7,000 Samoan and Tongan nationals are staying in New Zealand on expired visas. Recently that group has been targeted in a scam run by a Tongan expatriate.

Pacific Legal director Richard Small says there is a simple reason why so many are falling victim to deals that appear too good to be true.

"Desperation - these guys have tried the front door time and time again, and what we've seen over a number of years - which has accelerated in recent years - is that the front door is being locked," he told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat program.

Mr Small said the New Zealand Government's new immigration policy, which required Pacific Islanders have a salary of $NZ65,000, was unachievable for the majority of applicants.

"That's fantasy land stuff for most Tongan families," he said.

Melino Maka, chairman of the New Zealand Tongan Advisory Council, has been critical of the current policy.

He accused the Department of Business, Innovation and Employment of putting Tongan visa scam cases in a "vacuum".

"Authorities in New Zealand don't want to deal with it," he said.

The Department of Business, Innovation and Employment declined Radio Australia's request for an interview.