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Waiting Times For Refugee Claims Slashed

4 November 2001

Waiting times for processing refugee status claims have fallen dramatically from two to three years in 1999, to an average of just two months.

Immigration Minister Lianne Dalziel said the Labour-Alliance government had prioritised the need to address a massive backlog of general refugee status claims, which was the greatest contributing factor causing lengthy waiting times before claimants could be interviewed.

“In 1999, people were waiting up to three years before they could be interviewed by the Refugee Status Branch. The numbers had built up to almost 4000 when I became the Minister,” Lianne Dalziel said.

“Last year that was cut back to 18 months and this year, the average waiting time is a mere two months. Waiting times have also been drastically reduced for people who lodge claims on arrival at the airport. In 1999 the wait was six-12 months, in the year 2000 that average was down to six months and this year, the average is three months.

“This is a remarkable turnaround in waiting times given that National, when in government, did nothing to alleviate growing pressure on the refugee determination process. Nor has the reduction in waiting times led to any increase in waiting times for priority cases namely, detainees and requests for early interviews for cases with special needs.

“The Labour-Alliance government prioritised this issue and the results have been dramatic.

“The reason for wanting quick turn-around times is to minimise the pressure on the system by those seeking to abuse the system in order to gain work permits, which was a common occurrence under the previous government. It also provides certainty for genuine claimants so that they can get on their lives.”

Ends

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