Cosgrove welcomes Immigration Bill report back
Cosgrove welcomes Immigration Bill report back
Minister of Immigration Clayton Cosgrove says today’s reporting back of the Immigration Bill by the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee marks another important milestone in the modernising of New Zealand’s immigration laws.
The government’s Immigration Bill is the biggest rewrite of immigration law for two decades, and it will replace the outdated, inflexible Immigration Act 1987.
Mr Cosgrove said the Bill provides the framework for a modern immigration system. “People are moving around the world at unprecedented levels; as tourists, students, workers or permanent migrants. This provides challenges and opportunities for New Zealand.
“New Zealand has to stay in the race with modern immigration legislation which allows us to build a modern immigration system, and that can protect our borders from the people that may be a risk. It provides the right balance between allowing us to choose the migrants we want and need – and protecting our national interests, and ensuring that we can protect our borders. It also enables us to successfully fulfil our immigration-related international obligations.”
Ninety written submissions were received on the Bill. The Committee also heard 67 oral submissions. “It is important to get this feedback from the public, interest groups and those with either professional or personal experience in immigration. The submitters have all made a valuable contribution to the Bill by participating,” Mr Cosgrove said. The Committee has made several changes to the Bill, in order to reflect key concerns from submitters and stakeholders. The key changes relate to the: classified information system, refugee and protection system, and the detention and monitoring system.
Mr Cosgrove said these changes are supported by the government as they will make the immigration system more efficient and effective. “With this Bill, immigration will continue to make its essential contribution to New Zealand’s economy and continue to enrich us as a society,” Mr Cosgrove said.
“I would like to thank the Committee for its hard work and everyone who has been engaged in the Immigration Act review over the past three and a half years, including those who took the effort to make submissions. The government will continue to progress the new legislation in the comprehensive and consultative manner it has to date.”
Background Q & A
Why is it necessary to repeal 1987 Act? The immigration system manages the movement of people across New Zealand’s borders. Since the Immigration Act 1987 (the 1987 Act) came into force, the global movement of people has undergone considerable change. Travel is cheaper and more accessible. The flow of people around the world, and to New Zealand, has increased. Risks have also increased. The 1987 Act has been amended numerous times. Such amendments included changes to the removal regime for people unlawfully in New Zealand and strengthened provisions to prevent people smuggling and trafficking. Major changes took place in 1999 with the introduction of New Zealand’s now highly regarded refugee status determination process. At that time, Part 4A, enabling the use of classified security information, was also introduced. Further changes took place in 2003 with the introduction of the “expression of interest” approach to the selection of skilled migrants. While all the amendments to the 1987 Act have led to improvements in the way the immigration system works, they have been incremental and resulted in increasingly complex legislation. The Act review has sought to address the problem of complexity by increasing the transparency of the legislation and future-proofing it so it is “fit for purpose”, now and into the future.
What are the key changes in the Bill? The Bill seeks to ensure New Zealand’s immigration system is fairer, more transparent, easier to use, and more flexible. The Bill provides for changes in the framework of the 1987 Act by providing for: A simpler visa system: which will mean visas, permits and exemptions will all be rolled into a universal visa system. More flexible decision-making: which will mean the Minister of Immigration can delegate the ability to make positive exceptions to residence policy. The ability to use classified information in immigration and refugee and protection decision-making with special safeguards: The Bill will repeal Part 4A of the Immigration Act 1987. The Bill also provides for a special advocate (a security cleared lawyer who represents the interests of the appellant) in Tribunal and judicial proceedings. The special advocate has access to classified information. A more robust international protection system: which will include New Zealand’s immigration related international obligations under not only the Refugee Convention, but also under the Convention Against Torture and International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights. A single independent appeals tribunal: the four appeal authorities will be amalgamated into a single Immigration and Protection Tribunal. This will allow appeals to be streamlined without reducing peoples’ appeal rights. A more transparent deportation system: ‘removal’, ‘deportation’ and ‘revocation’ will be rolled into one system. The Minister of Immigration (and the Tribunal) will have the power to suspend or cancel deportation liability where appropriate. More flexible compliance and enforcement powers: compliance powers, such as entry and search, will be updated in the new legislation. Currently, some of these powers can be exercised by Immigration Officers, some by Customs Officers and some by Police. Specially trained and warranted Immigration Officers (who may also be Customs Officers) will be able to exercise the functions and powers necessary to do their job. A more balanced detention system: the legislation will enable a tiered response to manage risk and to reduce the need for court intervention and secure detention. There will also be a four hour detention power for specially trained and warranted Immigration Officers, and More appropriate third party offence provisions: While the obligations on third parties will generally not change under the new legislation – the incentives to comply with those obligations will. In some cases, the penalties for non-compliance will increase.
What are the key changes between the Bill as introduced and the Bill reported back by the Select Committee? The key policy changes to the Bill made by the Select Committee are in the areas of: classified information the refugee and protection system, and the detention and monitoring system.
The changes to the classified information provisions seek to provide an even greater balance between the right of the government to make decisions based on all available information and the rights of individuals. The changes the Select Committee made include amending the Bill so: that only the chief executives of specified security, defence, law enforcement, border, foreign affairs and internal agencies may certify information as classified, that in residence, deportation and refugee and protection decision making classified information cannot be used without a summary of allegations being provided to the affected person, refugee and protection officers will make decisions using classified information so failed claimants can then appeal to the Immigration and Protection Tribunal a special advocate will be able to lodge proceedings on behalf of an appellant, lifting this limitation on their role, and that the classified information provisions do not rule out the application of the: Ombudsmen Act 1975 Official Information Act 1982, or Privacy Act 1993.
The changes to the refugee and protection system will ensure that the Bill meets New Zealand’s immigration related international obligations. The Bill is consistent with New Zealand’s obligations under the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (the Refugee Convention), the Convention Against Torture (CAT) and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). For the refugee and protection system, the changes include the Bill being amended: so that the provisions relating to recognition as a protected person under the CAT and ICCPR reflect more closely the wording of Article 3 of the CAT, to remove the requirement for a claimant to show that torture, arbitrary deprivation of life, or cruel treatment is not generally faced by other people in their home country, to clarify that where a claimant can access protection in their country of nationality or usual habitual residence, they cannot be recognised as a refugee or protected person in New Zealand so that the consideration of whether a claimant has the protection of another country or has been recognised as a refugee in another country is a matter to be determined as part of the claim, rather than a reason to decline to consider a claim, and
• to ensure that if New Zealand enters into an agreement with another country for the processing of refugee or protection claims that country must: o be a signatory to the Refugee Convention, CAT, and ICCPR, and o meet its obligations under the Refugee Convention, CAT, and ICCPR, and o have satisfactory processes for dealing with refugee and protection claims.
In the area of detention and monitoring the Bill has been amended to help New Zealand try and manage those non-citizens who have no right to remain in New Zealand but deliberately hinder their departure. Recent courts cases have created an incentive for these non-citizens to wait-out time in detention in order to secure their release into the New Zealand community. This impacts negatively on the integrity of the immigration system. In response to this issue, the Bill has been amended to: create a presumption that, except in exceptional circumstances, a non-citizen who hinders their departure will be detained after the first six-month period, and exclude the “length of detention” from being an “exceptional circumstance” for the purposes of detention and monitoring.
Note to editors: A table summarising the key changes made to the Bill by the Select Committee is available on the online version of this media statement at www.beehive.govt.nz/release/immigration+bill+reported+back