No Refuge for Labour’s Record On Jailing Refugees

It is great news to me that an Iranian Christian convert –  after much suffering in New Zealand has finally been given refuge.  Ali Panah, a man so concerned at being sent back to Iran after he converted from Islam to Christianity, starved for seven weeks in 2007 to bring attention to his and other Iranians’ plight.

Mr Panah may indeed have been back in Tehran facing persecution if current Labour Party Finance spokesperson David Cunliffe and former Prime Minister Helen Clark had been able to overcome an impasse with Iran whereby Iranian citizens were shoved back into the hands of the Iranian religious police.

Luckily for Mr Panah – Mr Cunliffe and Ms Clark’s desire to be rid of him was foiled by the efforts of Christian leaders such as Anglican Archbishop David Moxon and Green Party MP Keith Locke.

I want to be fair to Ms Clark and Mr Cunliffe and hope that now the influence of NZ First is hopefully no more, they will return to advocating on behalf of those whose human rights are being trampled rather than merely mouthing whatever the NZ Immigration Service’s officials believe is the correct line.

Cunliffe with skeletons in the closet

Photo Credit: Lyndon Hood of Scoop

Mr Cunliffe prior to being Immigration Minister had actually written letters of support for another Iranian, Thomas Yadegary, in which Mr Cunliffe pointed out that Mr Yadegary would be persecuted should he be sent back to Iran. Mr Yadegary spent many years locked up in NZ jails before finally being let out on bail late in 2008.

During the time Mr Yadegary was incarcerated Mr Cunliffe had surprisingly decided Iran was actually completely safe for Christian converts.  I think anyone that is willing to spend years locked up in Auckland Central Remand to stay in New Zealand would probably make a good hard working citizen anyway.  And the ability of the Clark-Labour administration to indifferently sanction people being locked up indefinitely is a stain on its record that will take some effort in Opposition to forget.  NoRightTurn pulled some figures out on this subject that I consider absolutely shocking.

I hope that the new government will look to the story of current Prime Minister John Key, a man whose Jewish mother fled Nazi persecution and realise that refugees can make extremely valuable contributions to New Zealand life – though it helps if they are out working rather than being kept locked up at Auckland Central Remand.

57 Comments Posted

  1. Also from Wiki:

    “In August 2003 the Refugee Status Appeals Authority declared both his Belgian and French trials to be “unsafe” and granted Zaoui refugee status. Commenting on the information available to them in order to evaluate Zaoui’s claim, the RSAA stated that they “…were surprised at how limited it was and the questionable nature of some of the contents” and that “…it does not provide evidence that he has committed, directed or participated in any act of violence or terrorism that would require his being excluded under Article 1F from the protection of the Refugee Convention.”

    I believe in the Belgian trial he was denied a lawyer, an interpreter and didn’t even know the charges until the trial despite being detained for a good period before it started. I think the French trial was discredited for similar reasons. The French were known to be supporting the Algerians politically, which may explain things, though I don’t know the details. I expect DougT’s link to the RSAA report above would have some answers if you wanted to wade through it.

    I don’t know if Zaoui has a job now.

  2. Valis,

    Dop the Belgium and French conviction count?

    From wikipedia

    In March 1994, Belgium charged him with being “the instigator or the head of a criminal organisation” and two charges of using false passports. He was acquitted at his first trial but was convicted on appeal and received a four-year suspended sentence….


    In 2001 France convicted him in absentia for “participation in a criminal group with a view to preparing terrorist acts”.

    The terrorist has many conviction it would seem.

    Does he have a job yet and paying taxes?

  3. I don’t know if that’s true re the Police, but I it would still be a secretive process and require a similar level of accountability.

    big bro has no need of any knowledge of investigations done in NZ. I suppose he thinks the appeal authorities are in league with the terrorists, or at least incompetent, assuming he thinks at all. He has the word of Algerian dictators and that’s good enough for him.

  4. I thought the Green party wanted to can the SIS and give the role to the police?

    big bro, you obviously haven’t read the appeal document then. It could be a big pack of lies, but Zaoui would have to have a pretty good memory to pull it off so well.

  5. Doug

    Don’t worry about idiots like Valis, he/she thinks we should just open up our borders to anybody who wants to rip up their passport and spend the next thirty years bludging from the tax payer.

    Little things like terrorist convictions are to be ingnored, it’s far better for us to take the word of a liar like Zaoui.

  6. No offense Doug, but I really don’t understand where you want me to go with this. You seem to accept some of what I’m saying, but then come back to points that I’ve accepted already and even made my self. So yes, I know secrecy is needed in these matters, because I said it too and is also the basis for arguing that therefore the standard of accountability should be very high. Sorry if I’m misunderstanding you, but I don’t know what else to say.

    Btw, you are wasting your time on big bro, who sees facts as things that just get in the way of his fun.

  7. Big Brother, I read some (not all because its bloody long, and it was late at night when I read it) of Zaoui’s appeal document and there were failings in the system from what I can gather. DON’T TAKE MY WORD FOR IT THOUGH. Have a read for yourself

    The biggest failings from what I read, were the imigration officer that first saw Zaoui, the leaking of his name to the media, and what seems to be confusion from misinformation about the relationship between the GIA and FIS (if you don’t know what I’m talking about read the document). When you read it though you do have to remember that the information wasn’t all available from the start (hindsight is always 20/20).

    Valis, I agree that government departments do need to be accountable, but the nature of any intelligence agency’s work means that some information needs to remain highly secretive (even from fine upstanding politicians like Heith Locke). Thats just the nature of the intelligence. I doubt that the Greens openly tell everyone about ALL of their activities do they?

    This is just about opinions as Valis said, and opinions are usually based on emotion rather than fact, as big bro has shown. My opinion of Zaoui has certainly changed somewhat, but my opinion of the SIS has just been further reinforced.

  8. “The statements have been backed up and proof has been provided.”

    More sh*t. You said you’d give us your reasons for taking the word of the Algerian dictatorship over the NZ Refugee Status Appeal Authority, but have not done so as you are well aware. You only said they were plainly wrong and offered no reason when asked why. If I’m wrong, give us the link to where you think you’ve provided this proof.

    “When are you going to learn that you cannot force people to agree with you?”

    When we’re talking about opinions, I don’t care if you agree with me. When you assert something as fact against all evidence you need proof.

  9. “Valis’ statement “Don’t underestimate how much politics and human pride can get in the way of good decision making in an area such as this.” is pretty true I guess, but you can’t just make a statement like that without accepting that the Greens are a political party and as far as I am aware, they are human too (I assume I don’t have to explain what I’m getting at there).”

    Fine, but as we’re not the government, its not us you need to worry about. Its those making the decisions in secret, i.e. the govt.

    “Finally, there are checks and balances on the SIS. I doubt that they would put their people through phychlogical testing to weed out the sane people from their ranks. And I doubt that there would be a prerequisite on political views either, as they would have to sack all their people every time there is a change in government.”

    My concern isn’t so much with the individuals involved, but with the politicians and the process, which by its nature is much more secretive than just about every other govt function. There’s a good reason for this, but it also demands even more accountability and willingness to correct mistakes. That the Labour govt handled Zaoui’s case so poorly and then wouldn’t own up to it is bad.

  10. Valis

    The statements have been backed up and proof has been provided.

    When are you going to learn that you cannot force people to agree with you?

  11. What bull. The reason you won’t answer even the questions you promised to is that you have nothing to back up your stupid statements with. You’ve been talking out your ass the whole time.

  12. Which reminds me – just what were two Mossad agents doing trying to sneak into NZ? No trial, no disclosure, no nuthin. Curious and curiouser

  13. “I see big bro is afraid to come back. How predictable.”

    Not afraid, just did not want to waste any more of my valuable time with idiots who think that the tax payers of NZ should be paying for the up keep of bludgers like Zaoui or those who seem to think it is a good idea to have convicted terrorists in our midst.

  14. Sorry Valis, I didn’t realise Zaoui was a one off.
    I did find Zaoui’s refugee appeal online the other night and had a read through most of it. If it is all true (which is more likely than not) there seem to have been a few problems right from the start for Zaoui (not the least of them being the apparently misguided media coverage of his case both here and overseas). I believe that his being in NZ is a bit risky for us though, but not in the way that someone like BB thinks. I just hope the GIA’s reach is very limited.

    I still believe the Greens general misgivings about the SIS are unfounded though.

    Valis’ statement “Don’t underestimate how much politics and human pride can get in the way of good decision making in an area such as this.” is pretty true I guess, but you can’t just make a statement like that without accepting that the Greens are a political party and as far as I am aware, they are human too (I assume I don’t have to explain what I’m getting at there).

    Finally, there are checks and balances on the SIS. I doubt that they would put their people through phychlogical testing to weed out the sane people from their ranks. And I doubt that there would be a prerequisite on political views either, as they would have to sack all their people every time there is a change in government.

  15. Who are “all these others”? I’ve not claimed any knowledge about anyone else.

    Yes, Zaoui knew his history would look bad, which is different than being guilty, and could have been the reason he withheld info. I’ve no qualms that they held him to investigate, just that they continued to after it was shown he was a bonafide refugee and very unlikely to be a threat.

    You seem to think it has to be all or nothing; either we must be willing to go to any lengths including imprisonment of the innocent or we’re totally exposed and the SIS might as well pack up. I disagree.

    Don’t underestimate how much politics and human pride can get in the way of good decision making in an area such as this. The threat that no checks and balances on the state security apparatus represents could easily be bigger than that of a terrorist sneaking into NZ.

  16. Toad, If you want to put it that way then I’d say theat from what I’ve heard (including what Zaoui said) he was a probable security risk.

    Valis, Like I said Zauoi also withheld information (probably because he realised it would look bad for him). I hope you are right about him and all these others you say are no risk, but don’t you think our counrty is worth keeping secure? If immigration just let the odd one slide then we would be a soft target. And a backdoor for other bigger targets.

    Whether we would or could be a target for terrorists is debatable, I’ll give you that, but look at it this way….

    How many people do you know that have house insurance? And how many of them have actually lost their house and needed to call on that insurance? Probably not many, but we know it could happen because it has before to others (just like terrorism, and it has happened here too). And thats why you have insurance. Not because you know your house will burn down, but because it could. So it’s prudent to take out the insurance.

    On the other hand you could decide not to have insurance and hope for the best, and 9 times out of 10 you will be fine, but if the house burns down without insurance, your screwed. Unless of course you can go on Campbell Live and some rich people (with insurance) buy you a new house.

  17. Doug T said: I’d say it was prudent to see him as a possible security risk.

    That’s exactly the problem Doug. I could even be considered a possible security risk. As could almost anyone who is politically active.

    The test should be whether someone is a probable security risk.

  18. It has to be about both. To err on the side of caution is one thing. To go totally overboard is another. For instance, evidence should not be withheld from a suspect and their lawyer unless the need is extreme. In NZ this is done routinely. We should not allow basic rights to be trampled without extremely good reason. In Zaoui’s case, I suspect it wasn’t 911 driving them, but the NZ govt wanting to be seen to playing ball to some degree with the US.

  19. Valis, I’m not sure if you are aware of this, but on the 11th of September 2001 terrorists successfully carried out an attack in the USA. Then on 12 October 2002 there was also an attack by terrorists in Bali (closer to home this time). Ahmed Zaoui came to NZ in December 2002 with a dodgy past and dodgy friends. I’d say it was prudent to see him as a possible security risk. Also Ahmed withheld information from the SIS and immigration (the Greens don’t mention that Zaoui himself was witholding information do they).

    I’m not saying that New Zealand is a target and that Ahmed Zaoui is a terrorist, but I think it is prudent to take security in New Zealnd very seriously. This isn’t about what was right for one man and his family, it was about what was right for the safety of 4 million New Zealanders.

  20. I don’t think the objection was simply to the fact that a risk certificate was issued, but that the SIS persisted after Zaoui was determined to be a bonafide refugee. That and because he wasn’t allowed to see the evidence against him. Made his situation look very political in nature, like the govt was more concerned to be seen to be tough on international terrorism than they were about someone’s human rights.

  21. Ok, so nobody wants to answer my question then.

    On the subject of Ahmed Zaoui though, why is it that people like the Greens love to slander the SIS for issuing a security risk certificate for him when even Zaoui himself has said it was justified at the time.

    The Greens might see the world through rose tinted glasses, but I think it is better to err on the side of caution when it comes to keeping our county safe.

  22. As Mark says there are hundreds of thousands of Iranian and Iraqi refugees in the United States. Iran, for its part, provides a home for millions of refugees from all over the Middle East and Central Asia. These mass movements usually involve people moving from more austere to more liberal, prosperous and stable regimes but for essentially pragmatic reasons.

    What Ahmed Zaoui and Ali Panah have in common is that neither of them want to suffer unduly for their respective faiths. They seek refuge in New Zealand because they want to enjoy the sort of safe, comfortable life that is possible in a liberal secular and relatively prosperous society. They profess an ideology, but they are not ideologically driven. If they were fervently ideological, Ahmed would be a Muslim jihadi back in Algeria, and Ali would be a Christian evangelist in Iran. But the reality is that they are just a couple of individuals who want to enjoy the same simple pleasures as the great majority of New Zealanders, and believe that New Zealand is their best hope at this point in time.

    Western states try to restrict “refugee status” to those who will attest that they were, or will be, very badly treated in their country of origin, and say that they desire above all else the political and economic freedoms of western democracy. And many refugees are willing to humor them, even when a degree of inventiveness is required.

    The Iranian authorities take a more pragmatic and realistic line on both the Iranians who have departed to the west, and the Middle Eastern, Asian and East European peoples who have sought refuge in Iran. They accept large numbers of economic and war refugees out of compassion, but also in the hope that they will be able to contribute something to Iranian society, and in the expectation that many, if not all, will return to their countries of origin when political and economic conditions permit. And they cultivate good relations with Iranian refugees in the west (particularly the scientists, technicians, and engineers) who are often willing to assist in developing Iran’s economy and improving national security.

    By contrast, the New Zealand state prefers to treat the refugee issue as some kind of political soap opera, but in doing so it loses sight of the political, economic and social realities.

  23. The States are full of Iranian and Iraqi refugees (among many other races). Long as they don’t break US law – they are Home Free.
    Zaoui looks like a typically pathetic attempt by NZ authority to be In on The War On (Of) Terror. As if 9/11 has some parallel down here – toy soldiers.

  24. By the way, some people have an unrealistic perception of what it can mean to be a political refugee from Iran. One of the people I work with is a bona fide Iranian political refugee who regards the regime in Tehran as corrupt, but regularly returns to Iran on holiday, and to spend time with his wider family. He never experiences any problems on his return visits home. The Iranian authorities tend to be quite laid back about such matters.

  25. Ali Panah evidently would rather live in New Zealand than in Iran, and the Iranian authorities are no doubt quite happy that he should be able to do so. It is a simple enough matter, but has been confused by a lot of misinformation spread by Mr Panah, his supporters, and the Green Party. The simple fact is that he would not have been at risk in Iran. This is just another case in which the Green Party does not want the truth to get in the way of a good story. All I would say to Mr Panah, is that while dishonest methods are often successfully employed by persons seeking permanent residence in New Zealand, in the long run, honesty is the better policy.

  26. Plainly wrong? What fantasy is that based on? No, I don’t really expect you will actually answer that, just like the previous question from toad that you’re avoiding.

    So how much do you actually know about Algeria, bb? Let’s try building a parallel that you might better be able to relate to. Labour loses in 2008, but instead of retiring gracefully cancels the election results and holds power by force via the military. As the country descends into civil war, ordinary citizens are terrorised, journalists are killed (and you thought the EFA was bad!) and the newly elected National MPs, as the rightful government, are hounded into hiding. Steven Joyce, say, escapes to Oz, and is tried in abstentia for the very terror the illegitimate Labour government is responsible for. big bro, despite having all this pointed out to him can’t find anything to complain about this Labour govt and concludes that Joyce is a terrorist, because, of course, he was convicted and that’s all that matters. WTF?

  27. Frog

    Was the bludger accused of being a terrorist in the NZ courts?, did we have a trial?…I mist have missed all that.

    He was found not guilty of being a risk (which is plainly wrong) as far as I am aware.

    The fact remains that the bludger has been tried in Algerian court and found guilty, his accusers do not seem to be that worried about it as they were happy to see him, his family and his fifteen kids go back there.

    But not us, we decided to let the man bludge from the tax payer for the rest of his life, one can only hope that is all he is doing to harm this country.

  28. BB – Please, please feel free to present your Algerian evidence against Mr Zaoui. I merely ask you to refrain from inflammatory statements that have failed the test in a New Zealand court of law. That’s the court I’ll recognise over any other in this case.

    And I did not threaten to ban you, merely warned you that your careless remarks were against the policies of this blog.

    Play the ball, not the man, and you can say what you wish, even if it is the usual unsubstantiated nonsense.

  29. Its no use, kahikatea, its all been said before and been backed up with solid references. But these are mere facts and no use to big bro, who prefers to repeat accusations he can’t substantiate. Can’t wait to see what he tries to pass off as evidence against Zaoui.

  30. # big bro Says:
    February 19th, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    > Speaking of lies, did you note that the first “killing fields” trials begin today or tomorrow, is Keith going up there to support the remains of the Pol Pot regime?

    I doubt it, considering that Keith turned against the Pol Pot regime when their atrocities became known. Unlike the Muldoon government, who continued to insist that the Khmer Rouge were the legitimate government of Cambodia years after they had been overthrown.

  31. Why would you want to lie about Keith yet again, big bro?

    Where are you Frog? Please remove his fig leaf so we can hear about the upstanding Nigerian govt of the early ’90s!

  32. I am not hiding Valis, open your eyes (it will be a new experience for you I know) and you will see that I am right here.

    Frog has threatened me with the boot if I tell the truth, I refuse to use words like “alleged” when the bludger is clearly guilty of the crimes to which he was charged.

    So unless you can convince Frog to let me tell the truth then I am not going to be forced into the party lie re Zaoui.

    Speaking of lies, did you note that the first “killing fields” trials begin today or tomorrow, is Keith going up there to support the remains of the Pol Pot regime?

  33. Valis

    You really should do something about that exposed raw nerve.

    Now back to your question; I am not allowed to tell the truth Valis as Frog has said she/he will ban me, therefore I cannot comment on that subject as it goes against the official Green party line.

    Anyway, would you not be better served having a crack at Toad, he is after all male, heterosexual, white and (as I have just found out) a smoker, I would have thought they are good enough grounds for expulsion from the party.

  34. Frog was just pulling your leg, big bro. Frog enjoys as much as the rest of us when you make a total fool of yourself. So go on, tell us how the Algerian military govt which overturned a democratic election and banned Zaoui’s party was such a defender of freedom that it convicted a legitimately elected MP of terrorism.

  35. Toad

    Yes I would, I would give you my reasons but Frog has told me I will be banned if I tell the truth.

    It seems that I have to tow the Green party line now.

  36. A trial in absentia that contravened all the basic norms of justice and was conducted by the corrupt Algerian military dictatorship that had overthrown the Government Zaoui was an elected MP in!

    And you’d rather believe that “judicial” decision over the one reached by our own Refugee Status Appeal Authority BB.

  37. Frog

    It’s your gig and you make the rules however I will point out (at the risk of being banned) that you are telling lies.

    He (Zaoui) is indeed a convicted terrorist and you well know it, even the left leaning Wikipedia say so.

    Mind you, I know how little value the Greens place on free speech.

  38. I missed this (amongst the ozzies) – is this Zaoui fella a fast bowler bro? Thommo couldn’t wait round forever – bad to keep him waiting, so I cancelled the show – otherwise you get four body balls and two toe crunchers – no runs at all.
    Which NZ’ers did they terrorize?

  39. frog said: Please stop referring to Zaoui as a terrorist. This has already been through our court system and found to be NOT true.

    Or Hashim Amla, for that matter BB, as Dean Jones discovered to his regret!

  40. BB – Take this as a warning. Please stop referring to Zaoui as a terrorist. This has already been through our court system and found to be NOT true. If you wish to call him an alleged terrorist, I’ll wear it despite the court’s decision. But this is a highly personal and inflammatory statement and has been decided in a court of law. I won’t have it here on frogblog.

  41. Dispite that Panah’s conversion to Christianity caused this situation, isn’t his religious affiliation irrelevant? Wheather we believe he’s a changed man or not, by forcable removing him from NZ he faces persecution/death. Why shouldn’t he be allowed to stay? Shouldn’t we be putting human rights before some law about visas/immigration?

    I agree with Frog, its great that he’s been given refuge.

  42. That is shocking about 6 detainees being held in New Zealand including Thomas Yadegary, imprisoned without trial for over two years because he refuses to cooperate in his own deportation back to persecution and possibly death in Iran. In late 2007 Yadegary was finally released once the court realized the error of their ways. It is not right to deport an illegal alien back to their country when it is known they will face death for something that is completely legal in the country they traveled to.

    Of course, if illegal aliens start using this as an excuse more often we may have a problem.

  43. macro

    “Actually big bro it may surprise you to know that many refugees are not “bludgers” at all, but very hard working and many make very positive contributions to our country.”

    Oh really? you can guarantee that the tax payers of NZ are not forking out one cent for the likes of Panah and the [deleted by frog] Zaoui?

  44. You’ll have to excuse my ignorance on this one macro, but are the “hard working” “make very positive contributions to our county” refugees being refused refugee status too?

  45. Actually big bro it may surprise you to know that many refugees are not “bludgers” at all, but very hard working and many make very positive contributions to our country.
    But then I guess you only know about what you read in the Newspapers, and are told by the TV and radio and right wing blogs, so you have only been fed half truths and uninformed opinion.

  46. Not when it comes to bludgers I am not macro.

    Why are such suckers for the likes of Panah and the [deleted by frog] Zaoui anyway?

  47. Your all heart aren’t you big bro. I wonder if you know anything about compassion? By the way are you the guy in the SIS sent to watch over us?

  48. So another bludger manages to con the hand wringers into believing he is a changed man.

    Twice before the refugee appeals board had called this man a liar and he had the cheek to go back for a third time?
    As soon as the appeals board turns down an application bludgers like Ali Panah should be shoved onto the next plane home.

  49. Thanks for the article -I think the way the Police were let loose under Labour was disgracefull. And Helen wants to be out Rep to the UN?????

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