Refugee Policy: Some Questions and Answers

September 10, 2015 in General

In the interests of clarity and public transparency, I have decided to provide a brief description of current New Zealand refugee policy.

Refugee policy is contained within the Immigration Act 2009, and administered by the New Zealand Ministry of Immigration. The Immigration Act 2009 contains clauses giving legislative effect to New Zealand accession to international human rights treaties such as the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees 1951, Convention Against Torture and Other Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishnment, the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and many other such international human rights and civil liberties instruments.

When assessing refugee claims, the Immigration and Protection Tribunal will refer to Country of Origin Information resources for background context and circumstances related to the grounding of specific claims. For example, Syria’s COI section on the Ministry website includes information from the US CIA and State Department, International Crisis Group, Minority Rights Group, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. This is a detailed and robust set of sources and shows praiseworthy diligence in its preparation and design.

The most recent data shows almost gender parity and particular age cohort concentrations between 18-60 and 5-12, indicating family unification and resettlement. Most refugees settle in Auckland, Wellington, Waikato, Manawatu and Nelson.

As to nations of origin, these tend to consist of areas of international organised crime, lawlessness, failed states and tyrannical regimes, as well as countries caught in the ordeal of civil war. It will probably come as no surprise to learn that Myanmar, Columbia, Sudan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sri Lanka appear prominently on the list of countries of origin. Proximity appears to play a role in this, given the number of refugees from Columbia and its murderous international drug cartels or Myanmar and its repressive domestic regime, who might find transit to New Zealand more accessible than other countries. So does New Zealand’s involvement in last decade’s Afghan War.

Are there any aspects of the Immigration Act 2009 that we should be concerned about? Certainly, archival evidence suggests that the Immigration and Protection Tribunal is a transparent and accountable government agency engaged in best practice refugee and asylum assessment. However, some issues are of concern- such as the use of classified information in this context, although again, the Immigration Act 2009 specifically forbids the abuse of classified information for use in deportation, refugee or asylum decisions. Refugees may also be denied entry to New Zealand for other reasons- favourable regime change in countries of origin, as well as deliberate fraud and forgery, criminal activity or terrorism may be legitimate grounds. It does strike me as possible that there may be some legitimate deception involved in escaping specific repressive regimes if they have deplorable records insofar as police brutality, security agency repression and government corruption go.

But how does all this affect LGBT rights?

Further Reading: Ministry of Immigration

Refugee Protection Unit:

Refugee Family Support:

Immigration Act 2009 (NZ):

Refugee Statistics:

Country of Origin Information:

Deportation: http://www.immigration.govt/migrant/general/generalinformation/factsheets/Deportation.htm


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