Monday, August 27, 2007

How effective is indefinite detention?

At the moment, Ali Reza Panah is being detained in Mount Eden Prison by the Immigration Departmnet in an effort to force him to sign travel documents permitting him to be deported back to persecution and death in Iran. In Ali Panah's case, the detention has been sepctacularly unsuccessful - he has been there for eighteen months. Three others are similarly detained under s60 (6) (b) of the Immigration Act, two of them for over a year.

This raises the question of how effective this sort of indefinite detention is generally. My efforts to find out have been unsuccessful - Immigration apparently "doesn't keep records" of the number of people they have detained in this fashion over the years. But the Greens' Keith Locke has been on the case, and through Parliamentary written questions has managed to get a partial answer out of the Minister. In response to his question (14105 (2007)) about the outcomes of indefinite detention under s60 (6) (b), the Minister replied:

As at 13 August 2007, of the people detained under Section 60 (6) as a whole, two have been removed in the financial year 2007/08, four are in detention, and eight have been released on conditions, awaiting either removal or a decision on an application with Immigration New Zealand.

So, it's been successful in only two out of fourteen cases in the last year. And against this dismal backdrop, the Minister wants to increase the use of indefinite detention and make it easier to keep people in jail for longer?

This policy isn't just wrong - it is also, on the evidence, ineffective - a hugely expensive exercise in pointless sadism. It should be scrapped, and the sooner the better.