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Last Updated: Friday, 20 February, 2004, 10:16 GMT
NZ immigration minister quits
New Zealand Immigration Minister Lianne Dalziel has been forced to resign after she was shown to have lied about leaking a document to the media.

Ms Dalziel had denied knowing about the leak, but later admitted she authorised giving the document to the media.

Prime Minister Helen Clark accepted the resignation after Ms Dalziel's comments were shown to have gone from "being misleading to being untrue", she said.

The document related to a controversial asylum bid involving a Sri Lankan girl.

The document was from the Refugee Status Appeals Authority, which lawyer Carole Curtis took with her to show her client, a 16-year-old Sri Lankan girl, at the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre last June .

In my view a clear line had been crossed between a statement which was misleading and a statement which was untrue
Prime Minister Helen Clark on Lianne Dalziel

The girl claimed that she had been sexually abused in Sri Lanka, and was seeking asylum. To comfort her, Ms Curtis drew a guinea pig on the letter and made some handwritten notes, including "If all fails: Media".

It was not clear how the letter came into the hands of the immigration ministry, but it has since confirmed it passed it on to a New Zealand TV channel, on Ms Dalziel's authorisation.

Ms Dalziel gave interviews on Wednesday and Thursday admitting she had given misleading responses to the media earlier in the week as to whether she knew about the letter.

Ms Clark said on Friday that her attention had been drawn to an NZPA report on Monday which specifically quoted Ms Dalziel as saying "no" when asked if she knew how the lawyer's letter was disclosed to the media.

Ms Clark said NZPA stood by the accuracy of its report, and therefore "in my view a clear line had been crossed between a statement which was misleading and a statement which was untrue".

The Sri Lankan girl fled to New Zealand with her grandmother in 2002, telling authorities she had been sexually abused by relatives and feared for her life if she were returned to Sri Lanka.

However, she was twice refused refugee status and was deported last Thursday.

Country profile: New Zealand
08 Jul 03  |  Country profiles

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