• Introducing the New Zealand Justice Forum

    The New Zealand Justice Forum aims to pool the collective experiences of our citizens, lawyers, and academics in order to discuss the many defects that weaken the integrity of the legal system.
  • Dave Dobbyn & friends protest against boat people law


    For the first time, New Zealand is considering locking up boat-arriving asylum seekers. The irony? In modern history New Zealand has never had a boat arrival of asylum seekers.

    Entertainers Michele A’Court, Dave Dobbyn and Oscar Kightley have spoken out against it the law change in a youtube campaign this week.

    The Human Rights Commission also says proposed changes to the Immigration Act 2009 threaten New Zealand’s obligations under the UN Refugee Convention and potentially lack compliance with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.
    The Immigration Minister announced amendments designed to deter a potential mass arrival of illegal migrants to New Zealand yesterday. The Commission is particularly concerned about:

    • the introduction of mandatory detention under group warrants
    • the restrictions on family reunification
    • the changes to review processes.

    Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres says New Zealand has obligations under the Refugee Convention that are separate and independent of the country’s voluntary quota of 750 refugees as part of its annual resettlement quota on behalf of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
    New Zealand has obligations as a party to the Refugee Convention to:

    • ensure that people who meet the United Nations definition of refugee are granted asylum
    • not to impose any penalties on an asylum seeker based on their mode of entry to New Zealand (Article 31).

    Mr de Bres says, “How an asylum seeker arrives in New Zealand should have no bearing on their right to apply for refugee status and protection.”
    Mandatory detention on the basis of group warrants also raised issues of reasonableness and ultimately could amount to arbitrary detention breaching section 22 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.

    Mr de Bres says, “Our international obligations under the convention are clear. New Zealand must protect the human rights of all asylum seekers and refugees who arrive in New Zealand, regardless of how or where they arrive, and whether they arrive with or without a visa.”

    International guidance requires detention to be used only where necessary, as a matter of last resort and for the shortest periods possible. The proposed amendments seem to be at odds with international best practice and natural justice. The Commission will be making a submission on this bill through the select committee process.
    However, despite the commission's concerns, the government is pressing ahead. Immigration Minister Nathan Guy told TVNZ's Q+A a deterrent is needed, or NZ will be seen as a soft touch.

    Six vessels wanting to come to New Zealand have been stopped by foreign authorities in the past decade. The closest they’ve got is Australia. The Tasman Sea has acted as a deterrent, but a legislative deterrent is also needed, Mr Guy says.Australia’s return to offshore processing “could lift the level of risk” and send more asylum-seekers our way. “That could mean that they (asylum-seekers in boats) look down into New Zealand and say, ‘Actually New Zealand’s not that far away.” says Mr Guy.

    New Zealand already accepts around a third of about 300 asylum seekers who apply each year, Mr Guy says.The government has to be prepared to handle the arrival of a boat of 500 people.

    The minister says while the low-level security Mangere Refugee Centre could accommodate asylum seekers, the arrival of boat people would pose a security problem."High-risk individuals could be detained in somewhere like a correctional facility," Mr Guys says."Those in a medium-capability risk could utilise something like a Defence Force - an army base. And then, of course, you have a situation where you have mum and the kids, and that’s where we’d look to put them into somewhere like the Mangere centre in Auckland, and we’ve got a detailed business case being worked through on the future of that."

    The Mangere centre is "is hardly lock-up," Mr Guy says."It’s very open, and so that’s where Mum and kids would go and potentially Dad in the first instance. Then we’d work through the process of their identity, then they’d get a temporary visa, then after three years we’d review them, then potentially they’d go into a permanent residence situation. If it is just a father, then they can look to bring their immediate family in, but not their extended family."
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