15 June 2012

Refugee Council slams NZ immigration proposal

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The Refugee Council of New Zealand has spoken out over a proposed amendment to New Zealand immigration law which addresses the prospect of mass arrivals.

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The RCNZ has criticised the proposed New Zealand immigration law as 'inhumane'.

The government's proposed Immigration Amendment which will allow New Zealand immigration authorities to detain asylum seekers arriving in the country en masse without the need for individual warrants has been described as 'seriously flawed'.

The Refugee Council of New Zealand (RCNZ), which has significant ties to the United Nations, says the bill overlooks the humanitarian aspects of an issue which barely affects the country.

"This ill-conceived proposed legislation is seriously flawed from multiple legal, moral or humanitarian perspectives," said an RCNZ spokesperson. "It proposes a very bad solution to a non-existent problem."

The country has previously had little impetus to address the prospect of asylum seekers arriving by boat as none have attempted to reach New Zealand. However, the stated intent of a group of Chinese asylum seekers arriving in Australia in April to try and reach the country despite not having the proper supplies or a New Zealand visa has prompted a response.

The group were eventually persuaded not to attempt the long and perilous trip to New Zealand and filed their claim for asylum in Australia but New Zealand want to ensure they have legislation to deal with a similar situation should it arise, a move the RCNZ claim is needless.

"The notion that this is going to somehow deter 'people smugglers' who have never targeted New Zealand is an absurdity," said the spokesperson.

"The government has failed to show what useful purpose these flawed proposed amendments will serve except to seriously damage New Zealand's international reputation.

"Not long ago, New Zealand was proud to stand up at international forums as among the best examples of fairness and humanitarian principles upholding the UN Convention [on Refugees]. If these proposed amendments go ahead, the impact will be to erode and undermine international law protecting the most vulnerable that has stood the test of time for 61 years."

The proposals carry heavy influence from Australian law but with an influx of asylum seekers to Australia causing political strife within the country's government, the RCNZ has accused the New Zealand government of setting themselves up for similar trouble.

"The government is ignoring international best practice and following down the very same course that the Australians have now admitted to be wrong.

"Why is New Zealand not capable of learning from the mistakes of others, rather than repeating them?"

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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