Cook Islands Immigration refuse entry of Outlaw Motorcycle Gang member

RAROTONGA – A patched member of a known 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 authority for Immigration Officers to refuse entry has been made possible by Parliament’s legislating in December last year an amendment to Section 9 of the Cook Islands Entry Residence and Departure Act (ERD) 1971/1972.

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 program 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.

“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,” said Principal Immigration Officer Kairangi Samuela. “Our ability on this occasion 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, utilising agencies such as the PTCCC to identify, disrupt and combat potential security risks and transnational crime to the Cook Islands and our Pacific region”.

MFAI’s immigration strengthening program coincides with broader regional efforts to strengthen security mechanisms and processes within the Pacific including through the ‘Biketawa Declaration’.

MFAI Secretary Tepaeru Herrmann welcomes the prioritisation by Forum Leaders of the security agenda.

“The security environment in the Pacific is constantly evolving, becoming more complex and increasingly challenging,” said Herrmann. In recent months, the Cook Islands have been confronted with importation of narcotics and possible transnational crime in the maritime domain.

“Our particular vulnerabilities as relate to security require a pro-active approach by Government in engaging with relevant regional and security dialogue, including as relates to ‘Biketawa Plus’. But it is also incumbent on our people to support the efforts of officials and agencies working in the security space at the domestic level by being vigilant and reporting to the appropriate authorities where necessary. Our security is our collective responsibility,” said Herrmann