Article – Mark P. Williams
Tough Measures: Tough New Immigration Policies; Tough Questions on John Banks PM Press Conference 30th April, 2012 Scoop Audio + Video + Photos
Tough Measures: Tough New Immigration Policies; Tough Questions on John Banks
By Mark P. Williams
New Immigration Measures
Today the Prime Minister announced the rolling out of what he termed “tough new measures to deter potential mass arrivals of illegal immigrants and people smuggling to New Zealand.” The PM was joined by Immigration Minister Nathan Guy who both took questions on the nature of the forthcoming amendments to the Immigration Act.
The Prime Minister then took questions on other business; these were dominated by the questions resulting from claims made by Kim Dotcom regarding ACT Party leader John Banks.
The first change was the introduction of new ‘group warrants’ for ‘mass arrivals’. This measure is intended to detain groups of above 11 and up to around 500 under a group warrant without requiring individual warrants, to facilitate the processing of individuals considered potential security risks, such as where identity is unknown or in doubt, who may have possible links to criminal or terrorist organisations. The PM described this as enabling New Zealand immigration officials “to focus on managing immediate risks rather than getting tied up in paperwork and clogging up the courts”.
The second measure requires successful asylum applicants to be reassessed three years after making their claim before being allowed permanent residency.
The final change introduced was a limit on family reunification for mass arrivals. Under the proposed measures, successful asylum applicants granted refugee status will be allowed to sponsor immediate family such as spouse or children. Extended family such as parents of an adult refugee or adult siblings would not be eligible to be sponsored. He emphasised that these changes will only apply to illegal mass arrivals.
The PM also announced that tomorrow an exercise will begin, due to take place over eight weeks and involving up to 17 government agencies, simulating a mass arrival to be processed at Devenport’s Naval Base in Auckland in late June.
Mr Guy said: “Queue jumpers should not be able to push in front of genuine, needy refugees.”
The press gallery sought assurances from Mr Key and Mr Guy that the new group warrants for detaining illegal migrants would not affect New Zealand’s human rights obligations towards asylum seekers. The PM emphasised that the intent of the new measures was to deter people smugglers from viewing New Zealand as a target.
Questions on Immigration
• When asked why the family sponsorship limit only applied to ‘mass arrivals’ Mr Guy responded that this was because arrivals on the scale recently seen in Canada, of 500 illegal immigrants on a single boat, would “swamp our organisation”, and that it was the government’s intent to “send a very strong message” that it is inappropriate for large numbers to “queue jump” the New Zealand system.
• The PM and Mr Guy were asked whether genuine political refugees claiming asylum would be precluded from claiming asylum if they were part of a group which had been detained under the group warrant.
• The Ministers were asked if the government was not considering mass detention centres after the Australian model and responded that they were not.
• From the press gallery, Gordon Campbell sought to clarify the government’s position on refugees seeking political asylum under this legislation. The Prime Minister confirmed that those claiming political refugee status would not be considered as “queue jumping” but would be considered in accordance with New Zealand’s international human rights obligations.
The PM then briefly outlined his plans for the remainder of the week and took extensive questioning on the matter of the recent allegations made by Kim Dotcom regarding ACT leader John Banks
• The PM was asked whether he felt Mr Banks should stand down; he replied that he did not, and that he still had confidence in Mr Banks
• Asked whether he felt there was any problem with Mr Banks’ actions, the PM emphasised that Mr Banks had not broken the law and that therefore there was no problem
• When asked whether he felt that the laws regulating local government might be comparatively lax, the PM said that there might well be a case for review
• The press gallery asked whether the Prime Minister felt that spirit of the law had been thwarted by this case and whether that might be a case for standing the minister down; the PM responded that it was the responsibility of Minsters to comply with the letter of the law and indicated that if there was a case for reviewing the law that this was a separate consideration
The PM was also questioned briefly about SkyCity, the ACC Tapes, recent questions of government commitment to Christchurch raised by Lianne Dalziel, and whether he could offer any specific details from the forthcoming budget. Regarding the budget, he was keen to emphasise that it would not be simply a “slash and burn exercise” but a restructuring.