Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Bill passed to improve mass arrival management

Immigration Minister, Erica Stanford says the Government has strengthened settings for managing a mass arrival, with the passing of the Immigration (Mass Arrivals) Amendment Bill today. 

“While we haven’t experienced a mass arrival event in New Zealand, it is an ongoing possibility which would have a significant impact on our immigration and court systems,” said Ms Stanford.

“This Bill ensures we are better equipped to manage a mass arrival event, uphold the human rights of asylum seekers and protect the resilience of our critical courts and immigration infrastructure.

“Previously judges had just 96 hours to decide on warrants of commitment, which enable the detention of migrants to process applications. This did not allow enough time for the migrant to gain legal representation. We have provided more time for this decision, upholding the right to natural justice while protecting New Zealanders’ safety and security.” 

The Minister says the legislation makes it clear a member of a mass arrival group cannot be detained in a prison or police station prior to a warrant of commitment being issued

“It also provides that, in seeking a group warrant of commitment, an Immigration Officer must explain why the proposed detention is needed, and how it is the least restrictive and for the shortest time necessary to achieve its aims.”

“Further, the application must outline how the location of detention meets our obligations under the Bill of Rights Act 1990, as well as the 1951 Refugee Convention and our other international obligations, such as the UNHCR 2012 Guidelines on Detention.

“During the consultation process it was clear a number of submitters mistakenly believed the changes would enable New Zealand to breach our international obligations or the human rights of those involved. This was never the case. 

“However, to provide certainty, this Bill puts in place explicit safeguards on how human rights will be upheld.”

She said the Bill closes the gaps identified in a 2019 review of the mass arrivals provisions of the Immigration Act 2009, ensuring New Zealand is prepared to respond to a potential mass arrival in a safe and secure way, and in a manner which preserves the human rights of vulnerable migrants.

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