03 May 2012

New Zealand immigration law progresses through parliament

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A recently proposed harsh New Zealand immigration law which aims to deter asylum seekers from attempting to reach the country has progressed through parliament by 63 votes to 57, suggesting it could be passed into law by the end of the year.

New Zealand visa

New Zealand wants to provide a strong deterrent to asylum seekers considering travelling to the country.

Under the new law, New Zealand immigration officials will be able to detain large groups of people, such as the number which could arrive on an asylum seeking boat, under one warrant rather than needing many individual warrants as well as allow the detaining of any arrivals for as long as six months.

The law was proposed recently in response to 10 Chinese asylum seekers who declined to claim asylum in Australia and declared their intention to sail on to New Zealand.

The group was eventually convinced of the perils of attempting to cross the Tasman Sea with such little maritime experience but the prospect raised concerns in New Zealand nonetheless.

No asylum seeking boat has ever made it to New Zealand but the government fears people smugglers will soon begin to attempt to take advantage of relatively lax laws which are currently enacted in the country.

"People smuggling is a trans-national crime that grossly undermines a country's sovereign right to determine who crosses into its territory," said Immigration Minister Nathan Guy.

"It circumvents border security and threatens the integrity of the immigration system; it also puts the lives of those who are smuggled."

Mr Guy, who announced the proposal recently alongside Prime Minister John Key, said he hoped to have the bill passed into law before the end of the year.

Now the proposal has successfully made it through its initial reading in parliament, it will now be considered by the transport and industrial relations committee.

Despite passing the vote, the bill's proposal has sparked debate within New Zealand politics with opposition politicians claiming due to New Zealand's remoteness, asylum seeking is an almost negligible threat.

"This bill addresses an issue that simply isn't before New Zealand as a threat at the moment, it is a waste of the time of the parliament," said Labour MP Charles Chauvel.

The New Zealand Visa Bureau is an independent migration consultancy that specialises in helping people apply for a New Zealand Working Holiday Visa.

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