by Selwyn Manning
A group of imprisoned asylum seekers currently locked up at Auckland's notorious Mt Eden Prison are refusing food. Their protest is against a pathetically slow bureaucracy which appears arrogant and bullish in its dealing with the seekers' claims.
Eighteen men from Pakistan, India and Iran have been refused temporary permits to stay in New Zealand. They are protesting against the New Zealand Government's policy of holding would-be-refugees in prison until their identity and status can be determined.
Supporters have gathered outside Mount Eden Prison. They say the hunger strike is designed to embarrass the Government into releasing the men. And representatives from Auckland City Council and the Refugee Council met with the seekers on Friday.
But Immigration Minister Tuariki Delamere is defiant, stating that the asylum seekers and their lawyers are using stalling tactics to gain sympathy and attention.
"Many of the claimants, and their lawyers, appear to be deliberately obstructing the Immigration Service's attempts to have the cases decided as quickly as possible,” the Minister says. “Their objective is to delay the process and bring pressure to bear on the Service in the hope that the claimants will be released. In some cases the claimants have been feigning injury or illness, and in others the lawyers have been stalling the Service’s attempts to push the cases through for a speedy decision.”
Mr Delamere says if the seekers believed their claims were genuine, they would receive a faster outcome if they - and their lawyers - were more cooperative.
Perhaps the Minister should spend a week inside Mt Eden Prison. Perhaps this research would provide him with a degree in commonsense which would enable him to better judge whether that stoned walled dungeon is a suitable place to house asylum seekers.
Surely then too, Mr Delamere would realise how rediculous his claim is that these imprisoned peoples are stalling their claims to freedom.
Would any person in their right mind stall for one hour if that action meant one more day inside Mt Eden Prison?
Is there any other Minister of the Crown more out of touch? Come on.
And if Mr Delamere should wish to investigate whether the asylum seeker's claims of inhumane treatment are true, surely he need go no further than wade through file after file of suicide victim reports - those which have occurred inside the barred walls of "The Mount". There he would find, etched into those grime files, agonies which no one would wish on any body. Inhumane treatment need not only occur at the end of a bull-prod Mr Delamere. Psychological anguish can be just as cruel.
But in his wisdom, Immigration Minister, Hon Tuariki Delamere, did on Friday reject claims from the 18 refugees that they are being treated unfairly. He says their claims for refugee status are being dealt with "as quickly as possible".
However, eight men out of 30 arrested during APEC in September are still being held in prison. They were locked up in Mt Eden Prison after trying to enter New Zealand at Auckland International Airport without passports or other documentation.
This is unacceptable. This is too long a time. How much longer must these men wait for Mr Delamere to act? Perhaps, the next immigration minister after next month's general election will prove a more swift operator.