Friday, October 30, 2009

A disaster for human rights

The government's Immigration Bill passed its third reading yesterday. The government is naturally praising this step; as someone who care about human rights, I disagree.

The bill entrenches and regularises the most egregious features of the Ahmed Zaoui case. Secret "evidence" will be allowed to be used not just in cases where there are security concerns, but in any immigration decision, with no oversight, and no review. Detention powers will be massively extended, and judicial oversight reduced, allowing a return to indefinite detention. Immigration will get to run its own prisons, creating a serious problem of abuse by untrained and hostile staff. More generally, decisions will be made by faceless officials with far less scrutiny and oversight, with fewer rights of appeal (or even to natural justice - the basic presumption, enshrined in the Bill of Rights Act, that decisionmakers must give reasons for a decision is overturned). The upshot is a crueller, more vicious, less accountable immigration system. And it is a disaster for human rights in this country.

While National passed the bill, it was Labour's creation, and they deserve the blame for it. Despite all their talk, the Labour Party cannot be trusted to defend fundamental human rights. We should remember that at the next election.