Please write a letter opposing the mandatory detention of asylum seekers. Formal submissions to a Select Committee looking at the issue can be made up to 8 June 2012.
As we prepare to celebrate the Day of Prayer for Refugees and Migrants, the government is considering a legislative change which would allow the detention of asylum seekers who arrive in groups. Caritas has serious concerns about the Immigration Amendment Bill and other policy changes which would:
- Allow the mandatory detention of groups of 11 or more asylum seekers for an initial period of six months, followed by renewable 28 day periods;
- Allow the detention of children with parents (only unaccompanied minors are excluded from the Bill);
- Delay consideration of permanent residence for three years after recognition of refugee status;
- Permanently restrict family reunification only to spouses and children;
- Provide for the suspension of refugee application processes;
- Restrict access to judicial review.
The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has opposed mandatory detention of refugees for the past decade, saying it is 'deeply destructive of human dignity'. Detention beyond the minimum time necessary to carry out security and identity checks is ‘gravely injurious’ and unjustifiable, they say. They point to the ‘widespread and significant psychological damage’ caused, particularly to people who may have already been traumatised by violence, imprisonment and torture. They also note it is a very costly exercise in both financial and social terms.
Refugees and asylum seekers are both Convention Refugees
Because of our geographic isolation, very few asylum seekers reach New Zealand shores. Most New Zealanders are more familiar with the concept of resettling refugees from the countries where they first seek asylum. However, the primary purpose of the Refugee Convention, to which New Zealand is a signatory, is to provide for the ability of people fleeing persecution to cross borders to ask for assistance. Both resettled refugees coming under New Zealand’s refugee quota, and asylum seekers arriving to ask for refuge are Convention refugees.
What can I do?
- Please write letters expressing concerns about the legislation to the Minister of Immigration, Hon Nathan Guy and the Chair of the Transport and Industrial Relations Select Committee, David Bennett. Letters can be sent to Parliament Buildings, Private Bag 18041, Wellington 6160.
- Points you could make include:
- New Zealand’s right to protect our borders should not override our human rights obligations to vulnerable people fleeing violence and persecution under the Refugee Convention;
- Any detention should be only for the minimum time required to carry out identity and security checks;
- Any detention should not include children, and should not separate families;
- Politicians need to debate and discuss the serious issues involved in this legislation in full knowledge of the Refugee Convention, include the recognition of the right of asylum-seeking refugees to cross borders;
- Politicians and media should avoid stigmatising asylum seekers by using inaccurate and misleading terms such as 'queue-jumpers'.
- Formal submissions to the Select Committee are due on Friday 8 June. The Committee is due to report back to Parliament on 10 September.
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