Monday, May 05, 2014

Secret refugees

Noticed over the weekend: our government is accepting 150 refugees a year under a secret category. It will not say why they are allowed to enter New Zealand, or even where they are from, for fear of damaging "national security":

The Government claims national security could be at risk if it has to reveal where a "mystery" 150 refugees it has accepted under a secret category came from.

The claim has stunned refugee advocate Murdoch Stephens, who has battled since last year to get details on the "mystery 150" from Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse.

He believes the Government is lying. "I don't believe the Government's claims around national security are true," Stephens said.

But if it was true it raised the question of whether a secret deal had been done with another country or countries in exchange for our Government shrouding the origins of refugees in secrecy, he said.

"Excessive secrecy and backroom deals are normal in the corporate world, but they're inappropriate for running a democracy. If the Government could not be transparent around "giving a new home to those who flee war and violence . . . how can we trust they're telling the truth with anything?"

In the US security classification is massively overused, simply to shield the government from embarrassment. This seems to be no different. There seems to be no reason at all why the category or country of origin cannot be disclosed, except that our government does not want to admit what it has done and be held accountable for it. And that undermines the very purpose of the OIA.

BTW, if you're a public servant and party to this information, I take leaks. My PGP public key is here, or I'm happy to take documents in the traditional brown paper envelope.