01 May 2012

Amnesty International expresses concern over new New Zealand immigration law

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Amnesty International has called on the New Zealand government to reconsider its new, tougher New Zealand immigration law which will impose mandatory detention on asylum seekers in favour of addressing the issues in asylum seekers' home countries.

New Zealand immigration

Amnesty Internationalhave urged the New Zealand government to address issues in other countries before closing their borders first.

The proposed law would allow New Zealand immigration authorities to detain large numbers of asylum seekers under a single warrant and detain them for up to a maximum of six months. However, Amnesty International feels the resources and expenses needed to implement the scheme would be better spent addressing issues in nations which produce refugees.

"We'd urge that if energy is going to be put into this issue it happens at the source, the countries these people are fleeing from," said Amnesty's Acting CEO Rebecca Emery.

"We have robust systems for dealing with asylum seekers already in the countries. Let's look at the systems we have and not bring a system which I don't think is going to work."

Prime Minister John Key, alongside Immigration Minister Nathan Guy, announced the new scheme yesterday, saying New Zealand needed a strong deterrent to send a "strong message that queue jumpers won't be tolerated, and people smugglers will not be rewarded."

New Zealand's plan was prompted after 10 Chinese asylum seekers, claiming to be persecuted members of the Falun Gong spiritual movement, announced their intention to seek asylum in New Zealand, despite their vessel becoming stranded in Australia.

The group were eventually persuaded to lodge their claim for asylum in Australia and New Zealand's proposed system has definitely been influenced by similar Australian laws. Ms Emery has labelled this move a mistake as Australia's detention system has been fraught with difficulties in recent times with riots in detention centres last summer and Amnesty International recommending the immediate closure of another centre earlier this year.

There has been some doubt expressed over New Zealand's desperation to implement an asylum seeker law which deals specifically with boat arrivals due its remoteness. However, Mr Guy feels that it is necessary given a steel hulled vessel carrying 500 asylum seekers travelled 13,000km to Canada two years ago.

While Ms Emery admits there is a risk New Zealand could receive a massive arrival of asylum seekers by boat, she says the risks are "miniscule in terms of the movement of refugees and asylum seekers."


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