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NZ Tampa Asylum Seeker Process Questioned

9 April 2002

The UNHCR's rejection of refugee status for most of the asylum seekers from Afghanistan raises questions about the process used by New Zealand which gave all but one refugee status, National Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Lockwood Smith said today.

"It just doesn't weigh up that only a handful of the 529 people processed at Nauru were given refugee status for Australia, but only one of the 131 seeking to be refugees in New Zealand was rejected.

"Immigration Minister Lianne Dalziel is saying today that the Government didn't decide which asylum seekers were able to come and settle in New Zealand. She must have forgotten that she and Helen Clark allowed 131 asylum seekers to come here and rushed through their residency.

"She says we have 'no right' to question the quality of the decision making. New Zealand taxpayers are paying for these people so they have every right to know that robust processes were used to assess whether these asylum seekers, who have jumped the queue before others, should be granted residency.

"True to form Helen Clark rushed this decision to grab international attention, at a time when many existing New Zealanders can't get adequate health, social or education services.

"The Clark Government has set a dangerous precedent in allowing boatloads of people in on an ad-hoc basis. This sends the wrong message to people smugglers and opens New Zealand up to risk in the future," Dr Smith said.

Ends

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