Thursday, December 21, 2006

Not just Thomas Yadegary

Over the past few months, I've made several posts about the plight of Thomas Yadegary, imprisoned without trial for over two years because he refuses to cooperate in his own deportation back to persecution and possibly death in Iran. Like many, I am appalled that we can continue to hold a man in jail for over two years without trial. But what's more appalling is that Thomas Yadegary isn't the only person held in this fashion, nor has he been held the longest.

According to information released under the OIA, as of 17th October six people have been held without trial in immigration detention for more than 300 days. Two, including Yadegary, have been held more more than 700 days, and the longest has been held for almost a thousand:

Date taken into custodyDays in custody (as at Oct 17 2006)

If these people are still being detained - and we just don't know - then this would mean that as of today, all had been imprisoned for more than a year, two for more than two years, and the longest-serving detainee is now coming up for their third anniversary in prison. All of this, remember, without any charge or any trial.

Apart from Yadegary, we have no idea who any of these people are, or the circumstances of their detention. The whole process happens in secret, unless someone is lucky enough to have their case highlighted and publicised.

You can think what you like about immigration and the need for deportation, but this sort of indefinite imprisonment without charge or trial goes against our deepest values. It is the sort of thing practiced by absolute monarchs, third-world despots, or the Americans in their Caribbean gulag in Guantanamo. People are being given effectively open-ended sentences, without having committed any crime. And that is simply wrong.


I/S, did you get that information? Well done, a big clap on the back for doing more than any one who's supposedly paid to do the job.
Of course, these people need to be named and vigils held outside their prisons until something is done.
Maybe some of these people are the most evil, satanic torturers there are, but I'd prefer to find out through a free trial. not via the dispicable Sunday Herald.

Posted by Anonymous : 12/22/2006 12:46:00 AM

Ken: Yes, I played at journalist. But the real journalists have been asking similar questions; the Herald had a piece earlier in the month (which I shamefully failed to comment on at the time) about the incarceration of refugee claiments. They'd clearly been wondering the same thing I had in the wake of the Yadegary stories: "how many others, and for how long?"

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 12/22/2006 01:14:00 AM

Good for you, publicising this. If a government can do it to these people then it can do the same to any one of us.

Posted by KG : 12/23/2006 05:14:00 PM

I/S, in this case, Mr Yadegary has no legal right to be in the country. He has gone through our country's refugee claim proceedure (which is generally quite lenient to Iranians, on account of the general nature of their government). He has failed at every stage.

What is the alternative to detaining him, given that he refuses to apply for a passport?

If we release him (and presumably grant some sort of de facto refugee status), we will effectively be telling refugee claimants that no matter how little merit to their claim, they can stay here indefinitely as long as they dont obtain a passport. Effectively, anyone who managed to get into NZ, could never be deported. In my view, this is plainly unacceptable.

I consider myself very much a left-liberal, but as someone who has worked previously in the refugee law area, i think Mr Yadegary's release would just open a crippling loophole in our system.



Posted by Anonymous : 12/24/2006 10:04:00 AM

Carl: So, how long are you willing to keep him there for, then? Forever? Are you happy for them to die in prison, without ever having being sentenced?

That's what you are promoting: indefinite detention without trial, like our very own Guantanamo Bay, but without the pretext of terrorism to prop it up.

I think the prospect of prolonged or indefinite detention without charge or trial is rather worse than "a crippling loophole in our system". It's arbitrary and its wrong, and we should not be doing it.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 12/24/2006 12:46:00 PM

Yadegary had his application for refugee status tried, and his appeal tried. He has no right to be in this country, he has no right to freedom of movement in this country.

I/S - are you proposing open immigration?

Posted by Graeme Edgeler : 12/24/2006 01:58:00 PM

If one is taking on immigration in general the question should be not 'should yadegary stay' but instead 'what should the new law be'
I presume you support more or less open immigration for those who have the money and influence to get themselves to NZ?

I wonder why we need his cooperation for deportation. I would have though by its very nature deportation was done against the will of the person being deported and there would be at least onecountry that could not refuse to take him, and probably many others that would take him with a little persuading.

Posted by Genius : 12/24/2006 03:04:00 PM

I thought (and please correct me if I am wrong) that Yadagary wouldn't sign a form that would absolve the Minister of responsibility if he was persecuted by the Iranians.

Here's a link that claims that:

Posted by Muerk : 12/24/2006 05:31:00 PM

My understanding was that he destroyed his passport on entry, and that no other country (including his own) would accept him unless he has one (which he refuses to apply for).

Posted by Graeme Edgeler : 12/24/2006 07:17:00 PM

I/S, one significant point worth making is that detention isn't necessarily in prison. About half of those detained under this category are in residence at the Mangere Refugee Centre, often able to leave under supervision to go to religious/cultural activities etc. So while these people don't have freedom, their conditions aren't dire.

Posted by Anonymous : 12/25/2006 06:58:00 PM

Graeme: I'm proposing there is a limit on the sanctions we should impose on deportees, just as there is a limit on the sanctions we impose on convicted criminals. And while I do not think this will lead to a noticable increase in illegal immigration - I do not think that people are generally keen to visit jails in foreign countries for even short periods of time - I also regard the question as irrelevant. As with torture, indefinite detention without trial is simply wrong. If it is the price of keeping people out, or of keeping us "safe", then the price is simply too high.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 12/26/2006 09:59:00 AM

George: these people are very specifically people in jail awaiting deportation. Some will be refugee claimants (according to the Herald piece linked above, there were five people in jail who had lodged a refugee claim only after being served with a deportation order), but the majority are ordinary deportees. I'm planning on doing a followup specifically asking about refugees.

As another point, there are more humane ways of ensuring deportation without requiring imprisonment without trial. The recent Immigration Act review noted that both the UK and Australia make agreements with other countries to allow deportation without paperwork, meaning a situation like Yadegary's is less likely to occur. The review rejected this option out of hand, and instead opted for indefinite detention.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 12/26/2006 10:08:00 AM

Our sanction is deportation - a reasonable limit. And the detention's not indefinite - Yadegary knows when it will end, and has the power to end it.

Again - he had his application for refugee status tried.

I'm not sure where I stand on this case, but it's not as clear cut as you make out.

Posted by Graeme Edgeler : 12/26/2006 10:14:00 AM

Yadegary must have a very strong motivation in order to be sitting in jail. It's a telling statement that for him jail in NZ is better than freedom in Iran.

It also bothers me that his case took 12 years to be determined. It's too long to be in limbo over his status.

Posted by Muerk : 12/27/2006 02:47:00 PM

Thanks for that clarification I/S. I should have added that I don't think that indefinite detention in prison is an acceptable way of dealing with the situation of any - Immigration seem to have become increasingly intolerant and power hungry, as the legislation they're trying to have passed shows.

Posted by Anonymous : 12/27/2006 07:23:00 PM

Did his case take 12 years to determine or did he just fight and hide for 12 years against being deported?

Posted by Anonymous : 12/27/2006 09:03:00 PM

IS, what i am suggesting is that if someone has been through our refugee determination and appeals process, and they are not found to have a well-founded fear of persecution in their homeland, and they are not found to have any strong humantarian reason for staying here, they ought to be returned to their homeland. If they choose not to cooperate with that, That is unfortunate, but it is not a good reason for granting them de facto residnecy, just because they refuse to leave!



Posted by Anonymous : 12/31/2006 04:34:00 PM