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Writer calls Immigration racist after search

Published: 6:49PM Sunday May 17, 2009 Source: ONE News

An award-winning author and BBC correspondent is slamming New Zealand's border controls as racist after he was detained on arrival at Auckland Airport.

Adding to the embarrassment, Mohammed Hanif won the award in New Zealand and he's using the spotlight to criticise the Immigration Service.

Hanif received warm applause as he won the Commonwealth Writers Prize for best first book, much warmer, he says, than the treatment immigration officials gave him on arrival.

"They took out everything that I had in my bags from my socks to my underwears to my note books and they never gave me a reason what exactly was it that they were looking for," he says.

He was detained for two hours with his wife and son in tow. Hanif says he was singled out because of his race.

"People who look like me, i.e. brown and have curly hair, have written books in the past and continue to do so and occasionally they do get invited to these festivals," he says.

"You look at people entering your country from a certain point of view which is obviously racist."

Hanif says he told officials he was here to attend a writers' festival but they didn't seem to listen.

"They seemed to believe that nobody actually reads or writes in New Zealand. That's what they seemed to believe," he says.

The Immigration Service has made no official comment but their staff say they are trying to find out exactly what happened.

Lucky Hanif's first impressions of New Zealand will not be his last.

"Friendliest people I've meet anywhere in the world and probably the nicest book festival I've been to," he says.

But he has one last word for New Zealand's Immigration Service.

"If they were trying to find terrorists I'm sure again they're not going to find terrorists through their underwears," he says.

He hopes he will have less trouble next time he visits New Zealand.