When I first heard that DPMC was concerned about kiwis fighting in Syria, I thought it was the usual security fearmongering. We live in a "benign strategic environment", even with America's war on Muslims, so the spies need to come up with new excuses to justify their big budgets and intrusive powers. "Syria" just seemed to be the latest of these. But its actually worse than that:
The Government wants to ensure that any New Zealanders fighting in the Syrian civil war do not return and pose a threat here.
Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet chief executive Andrew Kibblewhite told Parliament's government administration select committee yesterday of concern about foreigners fighting in Syria and the situation was being monitored.
"You look at New Zealand, Australia, other countries, are all potential home bases for fighters in Syria so that would be a risk that we would want to be aware of and think about if we need to do anything to mitigate that."
Australian officials have said about 200 Australians are known to have fought in the Syrian civil war with that government moving to block them from returning.
What's the problem here? Simply that if they're talking about New Zealanders, then what they're talking about here is making people exiles from their own country. Which is of course illegal - New Zealanders have an absolute right to enter New Zealand, and if you are a New Zealand citizen, the Immigration Act simply does not apply to you. So, they cannot possibly do hat they are suggesting. About the only thing they can do is cancel your passport to stop you from travelling again (something they have only done once).
The government has greater scope for action against permanent residents, but even then they cannot prevent people returning, as permanent residency guarantees entry. All they can really do is cancel the visa - something which is rightly difficult for permanent residents - or fall back on monarchical powers (something which again is only rarely used - once in 2006 and I think once in the 80's against a Russian diplomat). In other words, they're pushing shit uphill. Unless, of course, they intend to change the law to make it easier to deport people for vague "offences" on secret "evidence". Again.
But the kicker?
A spokesman for New Zealand's intelligence agencies was unable to confirm whether any New Zealanders have fought in Syria or whether any have been stopped attempting to come back.
All this fearmongering, and they have no idea if its actually a problem. I think that speaks for itself about the character of our intelligence services.