Thursday, July 12, 2007

Speaks for itself

This Saturday, Global Peace and Justice Auckland will be holding another protest outside Mount Eden Prison in support of the "Iranian Five" - four Iranian refugee claimants currently detained indefinitely without trial by the government in an effort to coerce them into signing travel documents so they can be deported back to persecution in Iran (the fifth, Thomas Yadegary, has been freed by the High Court). The legal basis for their detention is s60 (6) (b) of the Immigration Act, which requires judges to renew the detention of those who refuse to cooperate in their own deportation unless there are "exceptional circumstances". The idea here is that this will coerce people into cooperating and leaving. But does it actually work? It's a question worth asking, given that we've imprisoned six people for over a year (one for 40 months) without any of them giving in.

So, I sent off an OIA request to the Department of Immigration asking how many people they'd detained under s60 (6) (b) since the clause was introduced in 2003, how many of them were still in prison, and how many had actually been deported. They didn't want to answer, claiming that it would require substantial collation and research. I'm pursuing other avenues to get the data, but at the minimum it tells us that they have never assessed the effectiveness of the policy since it was introduced. And I think that speaks for itself.

The current policy of indefinite detention is morally wrong. From the data we do have - six people in prison for over a year, and none of them deported - it is also ineffective, a hugely expensive act of pointless sadism. Even if you don't care at all about human rights, that ought to give some pause for thought.