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"Boat people" Bill To Be Introduced Tonight

Hon Tuariki Delamere
Minister of Immigration

Media statement
For immediate release
Tuesday, 15 June 1999

"Boat people" Bill to be introduced into Parliament tonight

Immigration Minister, Hon Tuariki Delamere, today announced that the Government will introduce an Immigration Amendment Bill into the House tonight, aimed at giving New Zealand greater powers to deal with the possible arrival of more than a hundred Chinese boat people, seeking to enter New Zealand unlawfully.

"The Bill will be a short one of two clauses that will bring forward the implementation of the recently-passed Immigration Act from October 1 and will make it effective immediately," he said.

"The background to this action is that the Government has learnt that a reasonably large vessel, Alexandra II, had left Honiara in the Solomon Islands last Saturday evening with 102 Chinese nationals aboard, with the declared intention of landing in New Zealand.

"If the vessel keeps to that intention and assuming favourable weather, it could arrive off the coast of New Zealand after next Sunday, June 20.

"Current law allows the Government to detain persons claiming refugee status for 28 days while their status is being determined. Tonight's intended amendment will allow us greater flexibility in how long we can detain these people and will also enable us to prosecute those who organise migrant trafficking.

"I would emphasize that it is not certain that the Alexandra II genuinely intends to reach New Zealand or whether those on board intend to claim refugee status, but the Government considers it prudent to be prepared, should such a relatively large number of people reach these shores," said the Minister.

Ends

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