Plans to lock up refugees arriving in groups to New Zealand have drawn concern from across the Tasman. The Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office (ACMRO) has opposed the mandatory detention provisions in the Immigration Amendment Bill, in a written submission on the Bill currently before Parliament.
ACMRO and Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand will appear separately before the Transport and Industrial Relations Select Committee considering the Bill Thursday 28 June.
ACMRO’s Fr Maurizio Pettenà and Joe Moloneyare are coming to Wellington to share the reality of mandatory detention of refugees. They are calling on New Zealand to respond with compassion to asylum seekers escaping war or violence in their homelands.
Speaking from experience in Australia, the Office warns that indefinite mandatory detention is an unnecessarily harsh and inhumane way to treat human beings. It ultimately divides society, is ineffective in stopping boat journeys and has substantial economic and moral costs.
Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand – the social justice agency of New Zealand’s Catholic Bishops – is also concerned about the mass detention provisions in the Bill.
It is concerned as well that the government is sneaking through other significant changes to immigration policy under the cover of fear of ‘mass arrivals’. These include the ability to suspend determination of refugee claims, and restrictions on judicial review (the ability of New Zealand courts to review refugee cases).
Caritas Director Julianne Hickey says New Zealand has a reputation as being a world leader in the resettlement of refugees. Many members of society are from refugee and migrant backgrounds, and contribute to the richness and diversity of our communities.
“We should be celebrating the welcome we give to desperate people fleeing persecution, not damaging their lives and our international reputation by adopting these unnecessary and harmful policies,” she says.
Mrs Hickey says public and Parliamentary debate about the Bill needs to be based on a sound understanding of the Refugee Convention. ‘The Convention specifically covers the crossing of borders by people seeking asylum. Both resettled “quota refugees” and asylum seekers are Convention refugees. They are not “illegal migrants”, “people smugglers” or “queue jumpers”.’
Caritas has a leaflet Refugee Myths and Realities to address misunderstandings about refugees and asylum seekers.