Border chiefs are reviewing a policy which has seen 49 visa rejects locked up in Queenstown police cells overnight in the last year.
Everyone denied entry by Immigration New Zealand at an airport is held in a police cell overnight if it’s too late to put them on a flight home.
French au pair Manon Pache, 18, was detained at in December because officials believed she’d work despite only having a tourist visa.
She told the NZ Herald: “They treated me .”
Mountain Scene can reveal 65 visa rejects have been detained overnight at the Queenstown police station since March 2014.
Of those, 49 were within the last 12 months - an increase INZ attributes to more international flights and more immigration officers at the airport.
NZ national border boss Senta Jehle apologised to Pache in writing.
She says the immigration officer’s decision was the right one but the consequences “were not proportionate”.
Jehle confirms to Mountain Scene INZ is reviewing its custodial arrangements for people refused entry to airports, including Queenstown.
She says the Pache case reinforces the need for a review.
Jehle wouldn’t say when changes might be made.
“We need to ensure the process is as thorough and robust as possible.”
Jehle says, as it stands, in some cases custody is unavoidable and in others “necessary”.
Passengers who fail to meet character tests – normally for not declaring serious convictions, other deportations or exclusions from a foreign country - account for 37 of the 65 Queenstown detainees.
Including Pache, 14 were refused entry for not being considered genuine temporary entrants, who might breach visa conditions or over-stay.
The remaining 14 were refused entry for other, unspecified reasons.
Pache flew in from Australia for a one-week trip with the family who employs her.
But she was denied entry by immigration officials after admitting she would babysit for a night if asked, although she maintained she would not be paid.
Police national HQ’s media team refused to provide fresh comment on whether Queenstown officers will get extra training or advice following the Pache case.
They say it’s covered in a previous statement from Queenstown’s inspector Olaf Jensen, who said of the Pache case that police followed normal procedures - treating her like anyone else in custody by storing her belongings in a safe place until released.
Pache says she was locked in a “freezing cold” cell, given only a “dirty and smelly” blanket as bedding, and just bread and an apple to eat.
Her belongings were confiscated.
She asked to call the French embassy but says she was told it wouldn’t be worth it because it was closed. Police maintain she declined the offer.