Tuesday, May 03, 2022

Wrong, at every level

We all hate Australia for its policy of jailing refugees as a "disincentive" for people to try and escape torture and persecution. But New Zealand does this too, on a much lesser scale. last year, the government finally ordered a review of this disgusting practice. Today, that review reported back, finding that jailing refugees is "wrong, at every level":

My conclusion is that while very short term detention of some arrivals who claim refugee status at the border may be justified (though the current practice of how this is done must change), the practice of long term detention of refugee claimants in Corrections facilities is wrong, at every level. It raises serious issues of non-compliance with New Zealand’s international and domestic human rights obligations. It is also inhumane and contrary to our society’s core values to treat such vulnerable people in this manner, and while a form of long term detention might in extraordinary circumstances be necessary for public safety or national security, the current rate and form of detention is not justifiable on any basis.
They recommend a law change to effectively end refugee detention except in exceptional circumstances, and to significantly increase judicial oversight when it is used. Reviews will be more frequent, and rather than being the current rubberstamp process, will require the government to prove both a need for detention and that they have taken all reasonable steps to enable a release on conditions every time. Detention in Corrections facilities - sticking people in jail and treating them like criminals - will be prohibited. Its an explicit repudiation of Labour's 2006 proposals (which were eventually enacted as the Immigration Act 2009 with Labour support), and of Immigration's general punitive approach.

According to Associate Immigration Minister Phil Twyford, the government accepts the findings. Hopefully they'll prioritise the necessary legislation, rather than dragging their feet on it.