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No "Security Reason" For Detaining Asylum Seeker

Green MP Keith Locke today rejected the Minister of Immigration's justification for detaining an Algerian asylum seeker in Mt Eden prison for over two months.

"Jim Sutton, speaking in Parliament for the Minister, Lianne Dalziel, could not give me 'exceptional grounds' for detaining the Algerian, which UN recommendations say are the only justification for imprisoning asylum seekers," said Mr Locke.

"All Mr Sutton did was detail the case history of this asylum seeker, alleging that he had exchanged his Algerian with Italian documentation before getting to New Zealand, and had been refused refugee status in Australia.

Mr Locke said travelling on false documentation was standard practice among refugees who could not get visas to reach their host country otherwise. Travellers on Italian passports do not require visas to enter New Zealand.

"We may not approve of such deception from asylum seekers, but it doesn't invalidate their claim for refuge, or mean we have to be protected from them by prison bars," said Mr Locke. "To suggest this man poses a security threat to New Zealand is laughable."

Mr Locke also said the result of a previous Australian refugee application was irrelevant to claims before the Refugee Status Appeals Authority.

"Imprisonment is supposed to be a measure of last resort in refugee cases, because of our humanitarian concern," he said.

I have sought a personal meeting with the Minister to pursue this case and make sure that the government has a policy of treating all asylum seekers in a compassionate manner," said Mr Locke.

Keith Locke MP: 04 470 6710 or 025 528 353 Gina Dempster, Press secretary: 04 470 6723 or 021 1265 289

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