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NZ keen to ensure protection of genuine refugees

Dalziel addresses UNHCR committee meeting

New Zealand is keen to ensure that the protection of genuine refugees is not weakened by those abusing the international asylum system, Immigration Minister Lianne Dalziel told a UN committee meeting in Geneva last night.

Lianne Dalziel is representing New Zealand as a first time member of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Executive Committee (ExCom).

In her address to the ExCom meeting, Lianne Dalziel highlighted the need to encourage more nations to sign up to the UN Convention on the Status of Refugees, and to deal with abuse of the asylum system.

"When I listen to other countries' interventions I note that the problems we face in New Zealand are on a much smaller scale - some countries host a number of refugees that almost match our entire population. However, that being said, there are lessons that can be learned from the New Zealand experience.

"For many years New Zealand has been the victim of thousands of manifestly unfounded claims which have effectively clogged up our system of determination and appeal. In our first term of office, the New Zealand government was able to reduce the first level determination backlog by more than 80%.

"Even in a small country like ours, the New Zealand Refugee Status Appeals Authority has estimated the potential cost of the appeals backlog that has developed as a result at NZ$30 million. Although I consider the figure to be somewhat over-stated, . . . it makes the point about the level of resource that is potentially diverted from refugee resettlement programmes, which ought to be the priority of a receiving country."

Lianne Dalziel said she was heartened by proposals to simplify the asylum system by identifying countries of improbable source, but said there needed to be a mechanism that identified genuine claims.

She told the meeting that New Zealand had committed to alleviating regional resettlement pressures by allocating part of the annual refugee quota to mandated refugees in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, as well as passing laws that introduced severe penalties for people smuggling.

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