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Afghan refugees shouldn't be detained - Locke

25 September 2001

Afghan refugees shouldn't be detained - Locke

Green Party Immigration spokesperson Keith Locke says the Government should not detain the Afghan asylum seekers arriving in New Zealand tonight and tomorrow.

"I'm shocked at reports that the arriving refugees will be served with a court order to hold them for 28 days, and that the Mangere Refugee hostel will be turned into a detention centre," said Mr Locke.

"I think Immigration Minister Lianne Dalziel has been panicked by National MPs who have been scare mongering about the possibility that some of these refugees might be terrorists.

"The chances that any of these long-suffering refugees, all of whom are in family groups or are unaccompanied minors, will rush off to commit a terrorist act in New Zealand are as close to zero as you can get. Most of them are coming here with not much more than the clothes on their back, and are in desperate need of our support.

"They have already suffered enough under the Taleban regime in Afghanistan," he said.

"Over the last year the Government has been moving away from imprisoning asylum seekers. It's a step backwards to turn the Mangere hostel into a detention centre with barbed wire, lights and security guards.

"Given the support that the New Zealand government provides refugees in terms of education, clothing, work permits and assistance with jobs, it is extremely unlikely that any of these refugees will attempt to run away from the centre," said Mr Locke.

"We shouldn't be imitating Australia's detention of boat people, which has been widely condemned by the international community.

"If we let the fear generated by the recent acts of terrorism in the United States over-rule our commitment to human rights, then we are giving in to the terrorists."

Keith Locke has a private members bill, the Refugee (Claimants Rights) Protection Bill in the Parliamentary ballot. Among its provisions is one making it illegal to detain asylum seekers unless there is definite evidence they have criminal backgrounds.


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