17.8 The border agencies

Why was the individual not picked up as a threat at the border?

The information available to the border agencies about the individual was limited (see Part 6, chapter 6). Between them the border agencies held information on:

  • the individual’s passport information (name, gender, date of birth, birthplace, citizenship, etc);
  • the dates, times, arrival and destination locations of flights he took in and out of New Zealand from 1999 onwards;
  • information indicating that he travelled with gaming friend from New Zealand to Japan and back in 2018;
  • information that he otherwise travelled alone on flights in and out of New Zealand from August 2017 onwards;
  • his arrival and departure cards for the last two international flights he took in 2018; and
  • Advanced Passenger Processing and Passenger Name Record data in relation to the individual about his arrivals into New Zealand from March 2013 onwards and departures from New Zealand from 28 September 2017.

The border agencies did not hold information about the individual’s full travel history. Both border agencies ran the information they had about the individual through their automated screening systems, and these processes did not identify any risks or issues. No agency raised a border alert on the individual and the individual was never subject to secondary processing at the border. On each arrival into New Zealand, his presentation at the border appears to have been unremarkable.

In summary, the individual was not picked up at the border as he did not present as a threat.


What policies and procedures are used by border agencies to identify which individuals to stop and search or interview? Is there a specific policy or procedure relating to non-Islamist terrorist threats?

Immigration New Zealand and New Zealand Customs Service each have their own processes for identifying terrorism threats (Part 8, chapter 8).

Immigration New Zealand identify terrorism threats through their Risk Targeting Programme and the Advanced Passenger Process. They use risk indictors and target advice on terrorism to identify who may pose a threat. The targeting rules are mostly built around clusters of individual risk factors that, when present in a single travel record, indicate that the person may be a potential security risk. Where a risk is identified, Immigration New Zealand will instruct the airline not to allow the person to board the plane. If the risk is identified too late to allow this to happen, an alert will be placed in New Zealand Customs Service’s database and it will be addressed when the passenger arrives at the border.

New Zealand Customs Service run their own rules-based targeting programme across the Passenger Name Record, passport and flight data to identify people who may pose a risk and require intervention at the border. The rules-based targeting applies across the various issues New Zealand Customs Service tackle, such as drug smuggling, money laundering, objectionable material and terrorism. To identify terrorism risks New Zealand Customs Service use a terrorism risk profile developed by their intelligence team. The terrorism risk profile sets out a list of singular terrorism risks, which when combined into a rules-based targeting system can identify people of interest.

Before 15 March 2019, the border agencies targeting rules and indicators for identifying potential terrorist threats at the border were primarily targeted at identifying Islamist extremist terrorist threats.  

Immigration New Zealand had no specific targeting rule in place for electronically screening for extreme right-wing terrorism threats (such as travel history, age or sex).

New Zealand Customs Service had one indicator (which was added in 2013) relating to white supremacy and right-wing extremism to its counter-terrorism profile to assist frontline staff.


Do the border agencies know what countries a person entering New Zealand has travelled to?

Not always. It is not always feasible to obtain a person’s full travel records. Technical and data sharing difficulties mean Immigration New Zealand generally do not hold the full travel history for an individual. The border agencies will, where necessary from time to time, request further travel information from overseas. However, getting detailed travel information may be a long process and involve international agreements (see Part 8, chapter 8).


Which countries a person has travelled to would raise red flags for entry into New Zealand, and why?

The national security instructions include a list of countries or territories of possible security concern including those known for extremism (see Part 8, chapter 8). This list is primarily focused on people who have connections with African, Asian and Middle Eastern countries.


Is it statistically likely for a person with the travel history of the individual to be stopped and searched or interviewed by New Zealand Customs Service?

This question assumes that the border agencies will know what countries a person has travelled to. This is not always the case. As set out in our answer to a previous question, it is not always feasible to obtain a person’s full travel records. As discussed in Part 6: What Public sector agencies knew about the terrorist, the border agencies had limited information about the individual’s travel history.


Do border agencies’ processes vary depending on the country of citizenship or origin? If so, how?

Yes. Immigration New Zealand applies differing scrutiny to different travellers (see Part 8, chapter 8). The groups below are listed in order of the increasing scrutiny they receive:

  • Australian citizens.
  • Citizens from visa-waiver countries.
  • Citizens from countries requiring visas to travel to New Zealand.
  • People with connections to the countries in the national security instructions.


How many people were denied entry into New Zealand because they were determined to pose a risk to security, a threat to public order, or a threat to public interest in 2015-2019 by country of origin and ethnicity?

Immigration New Zealand do not record to this level of detail the reasons for declining entry permission. They do not record information on people who are refused entry to New Zealand based on security grounds, including their ethnicity and country of origin.


How do border agencies ensure that those entering New Zealand have never publicly made a racist statement or been a member of a racist group?  

They do not. The Immigration Act does not state that a person must be excluded or denied entry permission from New Zealand for being a racist or a member of a racist group (unless that group is a designated terrorist entity). A person may be excluded or denied entry permission if they are likely to be a risk to security, public order or the public interest or on character grounds (see Part 8, chapter 8).


How many speakers with extremist (Islamist and non-Islamist) views were prevented from entering New Zealand before 15 March 2019? On what basis?

Immigration New Zealand’s records cannot be searched using the criteria of their occupation (whether they are a speaker), their views or their religion.


In what instances has New Zealand Customs Service received complaints about racial or religious profiling?

Between 1 July 2019 and 30 June 2020, New Zealand Customs Service received 47 complaints, of which six complaints included allegations of potential discrimination based on racial or religious bias. This is similar to the number of complaints about racial or religious bias received in previous years. There were five allegations of racial and religious bias between 1 July 2017 and 30 June 2018 and again between 1 July 2018 and 30 June 2019. The complainants came from people spanning a range of ethnicities and nationalities. The complaints of racial or religious bias were investigated by New Zealand Customs Service, and none were found to be substantiated.


Is there a culture or institutionalisation of anti-Muslim bias at New Zealand Customs Service?

New Zealand Customs Service’s risk identification rules are designed to identify people of terrorism concern. Before 15 March 2019, New Zealand Customs Service’s targeting rules and indicators were primarily targeted at identifying Islamist extremist terrorism threats. While New Zealand Customs Service maintain that they do not deliberately target people based on their religious beliefs, the way that the risk identification rules and indicators operate mean that Muslim individuals are particularly susceptible to being stopped, questioned and searched at the border (see Part 8, chapter 8).