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Australia Setting Bad Example On Asylum Seekers

The Green Party wants the Government to distance itself from Australia's treatment of asylum seekers which contravene Australia's international obligations under the 1951 Refugee Convention and other international treaties.

Yesterday Immigration Minister Lianne Dalziel met her Australian counterpart Philip Ruddock, Minister of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs in Wellington.

Today Green Party Immigration Spokesperson Keith Locke said he hoped the meeting did not result in New Zealand being influenced by Australian policy on asylum seekers.

"The Australian Government has attempted to strip asylum seekers of their basic rights under international law by a series of legislative changes, as well as by making negative public statements to rally support for their policies," Mr Locke said.

Under regulations introduced in Australia in October last year [Temporary Protection Visa] people who enter Australia unlawfully and who are later determined to be genuine refugees will not be entitled to a permanent visa, but will be granted a limited temporary three year visa after which they must reapply for refugee status.

Under other new legislation [Border Control Legislation] a person has to take all possible steps to enter or reside in the first country they have access to, or Australia does not owe them protection obligations. This means that even if that country does not offer effective protection, asylum seekers risk their refugee status being declined.

The Australian Government also enforces mandatory detention of unauthorised asylum seekers, with the average period of detention being three months but with many cases lasting over two years. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee's Guidelines on Detention of Asylum Seekers states that asylum seekers should only be detained as a last resort, on exceptional grounds, after all possible alternatives to detention have been exhausted.

"These regulations contravene Australia's international obligations under the 1951 Refugee Convention and other international treaties which Australia has ratified," said Mr Locke.

"Australia and New Zealand have only a small number of asylum seekers coming to our shores compared to other countries. These people have been traumatised and often physically abused - some have been tortured. The least we can do is find a better way of treating these people than throwing them in prison and treating them like criminals" said Mr Locke.

The new Government has been making some positive moves on Immigration and we will be seeking reassurances that Mrs Dalziel does not intend going the Australian way in our treatment of asylum seekers," said Mr Locke.

ends


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