Man With Expired Visa Pulled From Cook Islands Waters

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Israeli national allegedly has no passport or money

By Calida Smylie

RAROTONGA, Cook Islands (Cook Islands News, Oct. 17, 2012) – Immigration officials intend to work with the German embassy to try to repatriate the man found floating at sea on Sunday afternoon.

Binjamin Nachshon, a 47-year-old Israeli national with a German passport, was discovered floating about 1.6 kilometers off Avarua. Despite refusing assistance from concerned boaties and floating further out to sea, he was eventually hauled on board fishing charter Akura and returned to shore.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration were alerted to the man’s plight on Monday. They believe he is without a passport or money – and his visitor’s visa ran out on Sunday.

Compliance and immigration office manager Vasie Poila says ministry staff have not yet managed to talk to the man, as he went missing again after being returned to shore and questioned by police.

Immigration managed to locate him yesterday afternoon, after finding out he moved from the Aitutaki hostel to Tiare Village in Atupa. They intend to talk with him today.

"We want to bring him in for a chat and see how we can help his departure," says Poila. "Although we’ve been told he has no passport or money we need to check with him that is the case."

Nachshon is currently classed as an illegal resident under the Entry and Residents Act 1971-2. He entered the country in May – and what he has been doing since is a question Poila wants to ask him.

After immigration staff talk with the man, they will contact the German embassy in either Wellington or Canberra to discuss the next step.

"The thing we want to avoid is for Cook Islands to have to fork out his airfare back to Germany," Poila points out. "These sorts of cases are few and far between, but usually their embassy is willing to help out."

Poila says the ministry has concerns for Nachshon’s mental wellbeing.

The issues the man may have are a sensitive matter, says Poila, and the ministry will work carefully to ensure his future safety. "We don’t want to further exacerbate the situation."

The man was initially sighted in the water by whale researcher Nan Hauser, who became worried for his safety after seeing he was holding a backpack and wearing trousers but no fins. She called out that it was dangerous to be in the water because of sharks and boats, but he refused to get into Hauser’s boat.

Hauser then lost sight of the man, but with the help of Akura’s crew managed to find him again after an hour.

But Nachshon refused the life ring thrown to him, telling his attempting rescuers that his visa had run out that day and it was a "long story".

The men’s mental health clinic has been contacted to help provide counseling and support for the man.

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