by Jan Logie
Members of the Green Party do not support the intent or detail of the Immigration Amendment Bill.
This bill is not necessary
The stated purpose of this bill is to effectively manage the mass arrival of irregular migrants and to make New Zealand a less attractive destination for people-smugglers.
The examples given by the Minister prior to the introduction of the bill, of a freighter carrying 500 asylum seekers that made it to Canada and a recent boat entering Australian waters saying they wanted to come to New Zealand, do not make a mass arrival by boat in New Zealand any more likely.
The freighter that made it to Canada was funded by a large and wealthy ethnic refugee community in Canada. The cost to that community was in the millions of dollars. New Zealand does not have a community large enough or with the disposable income to be able to purchase a freighter to undertake such a trip.
The biggest barrier to a mass arrival coming to New Zealand is our distance and treacherous waters. Plenty of boats have made it to Australia, mostly from Indonesia; none has made it to New Zealand.
This is because we are that much further away than Australia and the risk is so much greater to get here.
We have been told that ten people is the largest group our agencies are able to process within existing processes. We find this implausible.
We have been told that this bill is a deterrent against people-smugglers, and yet there is no mention of smuggling or penalty against smuggling in this bill. It is our view that this creates an impression that people fleeing persecution assess which country has the best policies for settlement and direct their smugglers to take them there.
It is our view, and that of many presenters, that this misunderstands or misrepresents the common experience of seeking asylum.
This bill does not have the support of our communities and undermines refugees’ sense of belonging and welcome in New Zealand
None of the submitters who work with or represent refugees in New Zealand supported this Bill.
We heard from people who once sought asylum and people who work closely with asylum seekers who told us that most people entering irregularly by boat are likely to be genuine refugees, and that detention regardless of conditions has a negative impact on the mental health of the asylum seekers and reduces their chances of integrating into New Zealand quickly.
We believe that this bill has already sent a message to existing refugees and asylum seekers that our Government is starting from a point of fear and reluctance to support them. We want to assure refugees and asylum seekers in New Zealand that we stand by our commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which enshrines our collective right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
New Zealand helped draft the Declaration of Human Rights and the right to seek asylum is as important now sadly as it was post world war two. New Zealand only takes up to 750 refugees a year and has not met that target in recent memory.
We are willing to work with other parties to seek consensus on how to address any of the drivers behind the numbers of people seeking asylum in our region and also any realistic administrative challenges to processing significant numbers of irregular entries.
Sadly we believe this bill does neither of these things and in fact creates an unnecessary barrier to integration and an unfounded fear of asylum seekers, which undermines our trust in each other as fellow New Zealanders.
We will continue to seek solutions that provide a real contrast to the persecution and mistrust people have been fleeing.
This bill compromises our protection of fundamental human rights and natural justice
The facility for group detention for groups over 10, as mass arrivals, for an initial period of 6 months and for further periods of detention for up to 28 days with court approval, is, we believe, contrary to the intent of the Bill of Rights Act and Article 31 of the Refugee Convention to which New Zealand is a signatory.
Article 31 in particular protects asylum seekers from penalty regardless of mode of entry and requires states not to apply any restrictions other than those that are necessary until their status in the country is regularised.
Through the submission process we have come to believe the Government’s position is based on belief that applying for refugee status directly in a UN camp is more honourable than seeking asylum in a convention country without a camp, such as New Zealand. We believe this demonstrates a lack of understanding about the scarcity of camps, and of convention countries in our region.
Because we find the administrative argument implausible we believe detaining a group because they arrived by boat with more than ten people amounts to an arbitrary detention. The Bill of Rights Act clause 22 guarantees the right not be arbitrarily arrested or detained.
We do not believe a judicial decision on this, based on uncontested advice from immigration officials, is enough of a check to protect against an arbitrary detention.
Further, we consider the restriction on bringing judicial review proceedings undermines our processes of justice. This provision applies not just to anyone who was part of a “mass arrival” but to all appellants before the Immigration Tribunal. The Government believes this will streamline processing, but evidence was given that the opposite may indeed happen. There was very strong opposition to this on the basis of fairness and the need for people to be able to appeal to an independent perspective earlier rather than later. Several high-profile cases of appeal regarding refugee status have shown the country the importance of the role of appeal. We should not start from the point of assuming people are just delaying their removal.
We also strongly oppose limits on family reunification based on mode of entry. People who have had to resort to the most extreme form of escape should not be penalised further for the “sins” of others.
It is our opinion that this bill is unnecessary and an embarrassment to our history as compassionate global citizens.