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Refugees Excluded From Transitional Provisions

The Minister of Immigration, Lianne Dalziel, said today overstaying refugees would miss out on applying for temporary permits under the Transitional Provisions announced last week by the Government.

Lianne Dalziel said there were both legal and policy reasons why the provisions did not apply to refugee status claimants.

"The policy reason is to uphold the United Nations' Convention on the Status of Refugees. Any action taken cannot allow the Convention to be used to be a back door method to gaining residence in New Zealand. Such action would undermine the integrity of the Convention."

Lianne Dalziel said the Government is dealing with the backlog of cases by increasing resources to speed up determinations. "I don't want people claiming asylum in New Zealand to become well-settled before their determination is decided. This Government is increasing resources to speed up determinations and we are on target to meeting a six-month timeframe for deciding the validity of refugee claims."

She said this approach has two affects. "It discourages those simply using the convention to get work permits and it advantages genuine refugee status claimants because their case is heard quickly and they can start to settle in New Zealand and make a new life."

Although the policy reasons were important there were legal reasons that prevented the Government from extending the policy to refugees. "The policy reasons are compelling to exclude refugee status claimants from the Transitional Provisions, but my hands were tied legally by the actions of the former National-led Government."

"The previous Government amended the Immigration Act, which legally prevents us from including refugee status claimants in the Transitional Policy. Section 129U prevents refugee status claimants applying for any permits other than those required to maintain lawful status while the claim is being determined."

She said regulations are always sub-ordinate to the principal, act and it would have been ultra vires the Act to include refugee status claimants in the regulation.

"However, as Minister of Immigration, I still have Ministerial discretion to consider each request on a case by case basis," she said.

"I am giving an undertaking to those who request my consideration of their case that they will not be removed from New Zealand before a decision is made," she said.

However, Lianne Dalziel said she would look at reviewing section 129U. "I'm concerned that the reasons the previous Government had for introducing this section are not entirely clear. This looks like another example of policy formation arising without regard to the consequences. This and other examples that have been brought to my attention recently mean that section 129U should be reviewed."

"It is ironic that the National Party now asserts that these individuals should be included when they were the ones that created this legal impediment," Lianne Dalziel said.

Ends

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