Saturday, July 20, 2024

Changes to mass arrivals legislation

The Government has announced procedural changes to the Immigration Act to ensure that 2013 amendments operate as Parliament intended.  

The Government is also introducing a new community management approach for asylum seekers.

“While it’s unlikely we’ll experience a mass arrival due to our remote positioning, there is no doubt New Zealand is a target for people smugglers. As responsible Government we must remain prepared,” said Transport Minister, Michael Wood.

“We are introducing a short amendment Bill that will make some procedural changes to the Immigration Act 2009 so that the legislation will work as intended and not detrimentally affect an individual.

“These changes amend provisions to ensure those seeking asylum will have access to adequate legal representation by extending the period that a decision is required to be made by.”

The current Act limits the ability for asylum seekers to gain comprehensive legal representation and jeopardises access to specialist support for highly vulnerable individuals, the Minister said.

The changes were recommended by officials after they identified issues with implementation of the 2013 legislation.

“The Government will also separately address a key recommendation of the Casey report to develop a community management approach to assist in limiting the detainment of asylum seekers while their claims are processed. This means asylum seekers will be only detained in prisons when absolutely necessary.”

“The assessment of asylum claims can take a significant amount of time. A community management approach will extend the tools available to manage asylum seekers. We continue to be focussed on upholding human rights and assisting in integration into New Zealand should a claim be successful.

“The proposed changes demonstrate the Government’s commitment to upholding human rights and the rule of law,” Mr Wood said. 

The proposed changes will:

  • Give the Courts more time to consider applications for mass arrival ‘warrants of commitment’ and extend the time a person can be detained so they can obtain adequate legal representation;
  • Make it clear that members of an irregular maritime arrival group need to apply for the relevant visa and for entry permission, and if they do not, treat them as though they have applied; and
  • Remove any possibility that members of an irregular maritime arrival group hold a visa on arrival.

“The Bill will be considered by the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee this year and I encourage people interested to take the opportunity to make a submission on this important piece of legislation,” the Transport Minister said. 

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