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By Linny Folau

NUKUALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Oct. 31) –Ian Tuke, Branch Manager of the Central Verification Unit of Immigration New Zealand, visited Tonga last week under a joint project with the Tonga Immigration Division to help strengthen border security by detecting the risk of fraud.

Tuke, who with his team of three held training workshops with Tonga’s Immigration staff in Nuku’alofa and Vava’u, said the idea is to make sure that the people who want to come to Tonga are genuine. And for those that are not, the Tonga Immigration Division has a system in place to decline the applications for those committing fraud and prevent them from coming to Tonga.

Tuke said from their experience on the New Zealand border they have found a lot of fraud in the areas of business and employment, where people claim to have job offers with companies that do not exist; people claiming to be starting a business and employing workers but who have no intention of doing so; and people who are committing identity fraud by assuming the identification of others to get through border controls.

"So we are focusing our energy on the risks and verification of applications to strengthen the boarder security of New Zealand. Tonga’s Immigration Division is taking the initiative to learn from what we do, so we are here to not only pass on our knowledge but also to learn about the risks in the Pacific. We share the same neighborhood, and by us strengthening our border security and Tonga strengthening theirs everyone in the region benefits."

The Verification Unit of Immigration New Zealand has only been running for two years and Tuke who was visiting Tonga for the second time said there was always the plan to work with the Pacific to strengthen our Pacific borders, "but we had to sort out our background first before we can go in and work with other countries".

He also added they have been working with Tonga’s Immigration Division for most of this year and the Tonga Immigration has been to New Zealand to look at their operation.

By working together with Tonga Immigration Tuke said they had found some fraudulent documents submitted by applicants who wished to remain in Tonga.

"Needless to say, the trend is the same to what we are experiencing in New Zealand and the warning signs are there ".

Tuke and most of the team will returned to Auckland on October 28.

November 1, 2005

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