A patched member of the New Zealand-based Outlaw motorcycle gang with a list of serious convictions was refused entry into the Cook Islands at Rarotonga Airport last week, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration (MFAI) has revealed.
The individual was denied entry by Immigration Officers and returned to his last port of departure on the same flight he travelled into the Cook Islands on, the ministry said in a statement yesterday afternoon.
The release did not specify the day the incident took place and a request for further information had not been answered by the time CINews went to print.
The authority for Immigration Officers to refuse entry was made possible by Parliament legislating in December last year an amendment to Section 9 of the Cook Islands Entry Residence and Departure Act (ERD) 1971/1972.
The amendment empowers immigration officers to prevent entry into the Cook Islands of any person they have reason to believe is likely to commit an imprisonable offence or pose a threat to the security of the Cook Islands.
Last year’s legislative amendment is part of a wider multi-year policy, legislation and organisational strengthening program initiated in late 2015 and being undertaken by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration (MFAI), the statement said.
“The programme is aimed at strengthening MFAI’s border security function while at the same time more efficiently and effectively facilitating bona-fide arrivals into, stay and departures from the Cook Islands.
“MFAI has over the last three years received support for the programme from domestic partner border control agencies as well as regional and international partners including New Zealand Immigration, the Pacific Immigration Directors Conference (PIDC), the Pacific Transnational Crime Coordination Centre (PTCCC), and the International Migration Organisation (IMO), among others.”
Last week’s refusal of entry is yet another positive development in strengthening MFAI’s ability to ensure individuals coming into the Cook Islands don’t pose a potential risk to the country, says principal immigration officer Kairangi Samuela.
“Timely, evidence-based national and regional intelligence is a vital part of our process in assessing risk and decision making for refusal of entry into the Cook Islands.
“Our ability to prevent the entry of this individual emphasises the importance of strong domestic border control agency relationships and a co-ordinated and collaborative regional approach to sharing intelligence, using agencies such as the PTCCC to identify, disrupt and combat potential security risks and transnational crime to the Cook Islands and our Pacific region.”
The ministry’s immigration strengthening programme coincided with broader regional efforts to strengthen security mechanisms and processes within the Pacific, the statement said.
Meanwhile, a Cook Islands Police Service spokesman says that in the past, individuals have occasionally been refused entry at the border.
However, any further information on last week’s incident would have to come from MFAI, the spokesman said.
“Police intervention may be necessary if an offence has been committed and border police are present (at the airport) to assist and cooperate with the other agencies.”