Friday, June 14, 2013

A dark day for New Zealand

Last night, the Immigration Amendment Bill passed its third reading in Parliament. The bill allows for the indefinite detention of refugees who arrive in a "mass arrival" (30 or more people), and to allow the processing of refugee claims to be suspended indefinitely by order of the Minister, in violation of the Refugee Convention. In other words, we've just signed up to Australia's racist, xenophobic refugee policy.

Why? Its not as if we have hordes of refugee boats arriving here, after all, or that such refugees turn out to be ineligible (in fact, looking at the Australian experience, most prove their claims for asylum by demonstrating a well-founded fear of persecution). But to riff on some stuff Gordon Campbell posted in relation to surveillance and terrorism, its not about the threat to New Zealand, but about the threat to New Zealand politicians' careers. A mass arrival would inevitably cause criticism, and distract the government form its policy programme. And the only thing worse than a mass-arrival is a mass-arrival where the Department of Labour leaks that it was denied the authoritarian tools it thought it needed to prevent it. So, the politicians crack down not to protect us, but to protect themselves. And refugees are their helpless punching bags in the process.

It is vile, brutal, bullying politics, kicking those who are already down and making their lives miserable essentially for PR reasons. But its so very, very National, isn't it?

We are supposed to be a better country than this. We certainly think we ought to be better than the Australians. This law must be repealed. The question now is whether labour - who rightly opposed it - will actually do so when they next gain power.