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Continued jailing of asylum seekers condemned

15 May 2000

Continued jailing of asylum seekers condemned

Green MP Keith Locke has criticised the Immigration Service for continuing to imprison asylum seekers, after visiting an Algerian asylum seeker who has been jailed in Mt Eden for two months.

"I'm shocked that the Immigration Service is defying the essence of a recent court ruling against the detention of refugees," said Mr Locke. "This is a degrading way to treat refugees who already have the strain of moving to a foreign country and coping with a life in exile."

Justice Fisher declared on November 30 last year that refugee claimants are to be granted temporary residence permits in the absence of special factors making detention necessary. UN conventions state that asylum seekers should only be imprisoned as a last resort, when all other options have been exhausted.

Mr Locke said the Algerian asylum seeker he visited in Mt Eden prison this morning, who has so far been jailed for two months while his case is being heard, was a pleasant rastafarian who had no criminal record.

"This man wants to stay here because he's been labelled an Islamist in his home country; a country where Islamic activists are killed and tortured by the military," said Mr Locke.

"There are no "special circumstances dictating his detention in Mt Eden prison, and understandably, he is upset and depressed at being confined to a small cell and treated like a criminal."

Mr Locke plans to bring the case to the attention of the Minister of Immigration, Lianne Dalziel, this week.

"I thought the government was moving in a new direction, where compassion would govern our treatment of asylum seekers. Soon after she took office, the Minister of Immigration backed the release of 16 asylum seekers who had been on a hunger strike, but unfortunately things have been allowed to slip back."

Mr Locke said the Algerian asylum seeker claimed that four other asylum seekers were also imprisoned in Mt Eden.

"This week, I will be following up the cases of the four other asylum seekers, two from Bahrain, one from Pakistan and one from Tadjikistan," he said.

Keith Locke MP: 025 0528 353 or 09 630 0789 Gina Dempster, Press secretary: 04 470 6723 or 021 1265 289


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