Sroubek texts to Ardern released under OIA

Texts to the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern about the decision to grant Kaerl Sroubek residency were requested under the Official Information Act.

RNZ:  Texts to prime minister about Sroubek released

A text message from social justice campaigner Richie Hardcore to the prime minister thanked her for granting Czech drug smuggler Karel Sroubek residency.

Jacinda Ardern’s office released the text message following pressure from the Opposition last year.

The text message was in response to Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway granting Sroubek residency.

The minister subsequently issued him a deportation notice after new information came to light.

Mr Hardcore’s text said he and his friends wanted to pass on their respects and praise for the residency decision and, while Sroubek had made a “bunch of really bad choices”, deep down he was a good guy.

Ms Ardern didn’t respond to the text, which was sent at the end of October, not long after Sroubek’s case hit the headlines and it was revealed Mr Lees-Galloway took less than an hour to approve his residency.

A second text message was also received by Ms Ardern on 9 November from convicted fraudster Alex Swney.

It said: “U r too polite to say it but I will – Bridges & the Nats r being bastards about this Sroubek saga. I want to assist with information I hve included in an email I hve copied u in on. If I can please advise [redacted] … Best – Alex.”

Swney spent time in prison with Sroubek.

A spokesperson for Ms Ardern…

…said the government was deporting Sroubek and “Ministers did not have all the critical information when making the first decision, but now that we have all the info he is being deported”.

“This correspondence proves the PM had no involvement in this case or any of the decisions made about it. Text messages to her were sent after the first decision. They were unsolicited and not replied to.

“People write to the prime minister and offer their opinions about government decisions every day. She can’t control their opinions but has taken the step of changing the phone number she’s had for years, to limit unsolicited contact on her phone.”

Surprising it has taken over a year to switch to a more private phone number.

National Party immigration spokesperson Michael Woodhouse:

“Why was Sroubek’s main supporter texting her directly to pass on his ‘respect and praise’ over the decision to allow Sroubek to stay in New Zealand in spite of Sroubek’s criminal history and the fact he came here on a false passport?”

“Why was one of Sroubek’s fellow inmates – Alex Swney – texting and emailing the prime minister information on the case, which has only now been revealed in spite of months of questioning? And what was that information and what is her relationship with Mr Swney?

“The whole thing stinks. Karel Sroubek should never have been granted residency, the government should never have tried to keep it secret, and the prime minister should not be involved in any way in such a decision, especially ones which allowed a convicted criminal to remain in New Zealand.”

Ardern’s office:

There had never been an issue with releasing the messages, “but [we] wanted to get guidance from the ombudsman to make sure we don’t infringe on others’ rights to privacy, the spokesperson said.

“Given that advice we are happy to release them now.”

On Friday afternoon, a time favoured for releasing unfavourable information, texts have been released.  Ardern is heading to Europe, which will increase the impression that she is avoiding fronting up on this issue.

Matthew Hooton was one of those who requested that the texts be released.

 

 

Ardern has confidence in Minister of Immigration

It will be annoying for Jacinda Ardern and Labour to have the immigration and deportation thing hanging over their conference weekend, but it is an unresolved issue that deserves more answers.

She should be disappointed.

Duncan Garner (Stuff):  Dear Iain, your shocker continues to seep

Bet this wasn’t how your Labour mates saw this weekend’s party conference playing out.

Can’t imagine, Iain, you’ll be dragged up on the stage as ministerial eye-candy either.

Standing ovation anyone? Iain Lees-Galloway for services to a foreign crook and an unsafer New Zealand.

They’re hard places to hide those party conferences too.  Unlike parliament, the pillars to hide behind are few and far between, so just keep expanding the designer beard, it’ll soon envelop you.

John Roughan (NZH): Czech ‘refugee’ shows Government needs better judgment

Putting aside all we know about Karel Sroubek now, it is easy to say the crimes Lees-Galloway knew about ought to have outweighed the risk to the life of a drug importer with gang associations. But did they really? Often it is not until you sit in a decision making chair that the right course of action becomes clear.

To my mind the significance of the crimes for this decision was the question they raised about Sroubek’s honesty and therefore the credibility of his claim to be in mortal danger in the Czech Republic. Lees-Galloway ought to have asked his officials to check that claim more closely. Had he done so, they would easily have discovered the court records showing he’d been back to his homeland on business at least once, albeit under the false name he was using when he entered New Zealand.

It is easy to blame Immigration officials for not doing these checks of their own accord but again, it’s the person in the hot seat who can see these needs clearest. It worries me that Lees-Galloway did not ask enough questions of this supposed refugee and surprises me that Jacinda Ardern was so quick to endorse his decision on Monday. A Prime Minister occupies the ultimate hot seat and is usually hyper-alert to political danger.

This issue will be ongoing pending the up to 3 week inquiry ordered by Lees-Galloway.

Laura Walters:  Immigration Minister in a precarious position

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway will be stuck between a rock and a hard place for as long as three weeks, as questions hang over his decision to grant residency to a convicted drug smuggler and gangster.

Lees-Galloway has spent the past week trying to explain his discretionary decision to grant Karel Sroubek residency – but without actually divulging any of the details of the case.

This has left him stuck in a politically precarious position where, upon legal advice, he is refusing to answer any substantive questions on the controversial issue. But the risk of making a further mess of things by spilling his secrets is much greater.

The heat still on Minister of Immigration

Pressure is still being applied to Minister of Immigration Iain Lees-Galloway over his decision to allow Czech Karel Sroubek to stay in New Zealand after he leaves prison (drug importation offences). Galloway has ordered an urgent review, but that may take weeks. The heat is still being applied.

Newsroom:  Immigration Minister in a precarious position

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway will be stuck between a rock and a hard place for as long as three weeks, as questions hang over his decision to grant residency to a convicted drug smuggler and gangster.

Lees-Galloway has spent the past week trying to explain his discretionary decision to grant Karel Sroubek residency – but without actually divulging any of the details of the case.

This has left him stuck in a politically precarious position where, upon legal advice, he is refusing to answer any substantive questions on the controversial issue. But the risk of making a further mess of things by spilling his secrets is much greater.

Understandably the Opposition and the wider public have been critical of Lees-Galloway’s decision – Sroubek is a man who came to New Zealand under a fake name, using fake documents, who was convicted for smuggling MDMA into the country, then granted residency as he feared for his life should he be deported to the Czech Republic.

The criticism of Lees-Galloway’s decision to cancel Sroubek’s deportation liability, coupled with the Minister saying as good as nothing about the particulars of the case, has left an information vacuum.

National will keep trying to fill the vacuum.

Electorate MP helps Sri Lankan family get residency

Electorate MPs do a lot of work with and for constituents that usually goes unreported and largely unnoticed, but here is a story of a success by rookie Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker (he took over the seat long held by Bill English and short held by Todd Barclay).

This also shows how MPs from different parties work together – in this case Associate Minister of Immigration Kris Faafoi.

Stuff: Sri Lankan family get residency after eight-year battle

A year after they pleaded to avoid deportation to Sri Lanka, a Queenstown family have been granted residency and are giving back to the community that supported them.

“I am so happy,” an emotional Dinesha Wijerathne said, while working in her new chef job at the community project Let’s Eat.

Husband Sam Wijerathne, a taxi driver, said they had struggled for eight years to reach a point of certainty for the family.

As they went through the residency application process, Dinesha Wijerathne, the primary visa holder, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) and was unable to work.

Their working visa applications were declined and the future looked grim.

Local MP Hamish Walker stepped in too.

He assisted them to appeal to the Immigration and Protection Tribunal, buying time for the family, before requesting the Immigration Minister to intervene.

Walker, a first term National Party MP, lobbied Associate Minister of Immigration Kris Faafoi.

“Really I must thank him for allowing thIs family to stay in New Zealand,” Walker said.

Good work by Walker, and a good response from Faafoi.