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More money to clear backlog of refugee claimants

23 June 2000 Media Statement

More money to clear backlog of refugee claimants

The aim of bringing refugee status determinations down to a maximum waiting time of six months should be achieved by 1 July next year, the Minister of Immigration, Lianne Dalziel, said today.

The Government will put more than $500,000 for the 2000/01 financial year to help clear the backlog of refugee status determinations. In the current financial year, the Immigration Service has also received an extra $321,000 to help reduce the list of claimants waiting for determinations.

"There are about 2400 claims waiting to be heard. But some of those claimants in the backlog have been waiting between three and four years for determination. It's particularly unfair that people have to wait that length of time for a determination  it's unfair on those with genuine claims for refugee status, as the wait intensifies the stress they are under.

For those who do not have a claim accepted, they can become settled into New Zealand, and then have to leave. It is in everyone's interest that the determination process is swift and in accordance with our international obligations," Lianne Dalziel said.

"The extra money will be positive for those who have well-founded cases and who will gain certainty sooner, and those who do not have well-founded cases will leave New Zealand earlier, hopefully discouraging others who do not have legitimate cases from seeking asylum here."

Lianne Dalziel said that she anticipates the number of "manifestly unfounded claims will reduce", saying the length of wait encourages non-legitimate claims.

"I am aware some refugee status claimants don't even know refugee claims have been lodged. Certain fraudulent immigration consultants offer to get their clients work permits for large sums of money and then lodge refugee claims."

She said the incentive for this will disappear once the backlog has gone.

New Zealand accepts 750 United Nations quota refugees each year, but the number of people usually amounts to at least half as many again, the Minister said.

ENDS

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