by Geoffrey Churchman

During the week I had a chat with an Amnesty International organizer about topics they are involved in abroad, and at home.

The popular impression that people have from all the theatrics and virtue signalling that took place during 2019 is that the present PM cares about people arriving here from countries where the governments persecute them. But like everything else with her, it was just a show. More than a few of them get locked up in Her Majesty’s Prisons.

An Amnesty International report last year highlighted that from 2015-2020, 86 people seeking asylum were locked in police cells and prisons around the country while they await the outcome of their refugee claim, despite the United Nations warning that it should not take place.  

New Zealand/Nu Tirani isn’t a prime destination for asylum seekers because of its distance by sea from the rest of the world. Almost everyone seeking a new, better life comes by air, and not many come here of their own volition — nearly all refugees are invited here by the government as part of humanitarian programs run by the U.N.

The previous National government to 2017 was bringing in 750 a year; the Dear Leader government announced that figure would be doubled.

I’m not a fan of bringing in economic migrants, which most of them really are, who are unfamiliar with the customs and values of NZ, poorly educated and poorly skilled. They then have to be housed at the expense of homeless NZ citizens and then (re-)educated so they can be a productive part of a harmonious society. There are better ways of achieving a more egalitarian world by helping these people in their own countries/regions, which in turn helps others through economic development.

But for those who do make it here by their own devices and fleeing wrongful persecution, they should be treated humanely. Locking them up in prisons for months in case they are terrorists in disguise seems to negate the basic justice principle of innocent until proven guilty. And what do these people learn while they are in prisons? Not all prison inmates are nice people; many are hard-core criminals.

While the report mentioned above is detailed, this NZ Herald article last year provides a quick summary of what can happen to these people; it includes allegations that are not pleasant.

“Please take me to a safe place” were the desperate words of one young man pleading to be released from prison in Auckland. After fleeing danger in his home country, he thought he would be safe. Instead, he was arrested, detained in a police cell and then imprisoned solely on immigration grounds. He was only released after his refugee status was recognised — seven months later. 
People deserve to be treated with care, dignity and humanity – and to have their human rights respected. 
Detaining people seeking asylum in criminal justice facilities is not only contrary to international human rights standards – it lacks compassion. The continuation of this harmful practice represents a failure by our government. There are adequate alternatives to prison that are not being utilised or properly funded.  

Petition to the Minister of Immigration, Hon. Kris Faafoi.