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Boat People Treatment To Be Firm But Fair

Hon Tuariki Delamere
Minister of Immigration

Media statement
For immediate release
Thursday, 17 June 1999

Boat people treatment to be firm but fair

The arrival of a vessel from China containing illegal migrants last sighted in the Solomon Islands is still only a possibility, Immigration Minister, Hon Tuariki Delamere, said today.

"However, the Government is actively planning to ensure New Zealand is ready to deal with the illegal migrants should they arrive here.

"This includes the passing of clauses of the Immigration Amendment Bill in Parliament yesterday."

Mr Delamere said the Government was cooperating with New Zealand's regional neighbours on this issue.

"Some of the information that we have received about the possible whereabouts and destination of the vessel we cannot make public. We do not want to compromise the joint efforts of our neighbours, who also may have to cope with the arrival of illegal migrants.

"The Government is determined to deal with illegal immigrants firmly but fairly. This is a fundamentally different issue from the arrival of the refugees from Kosovo or other refugees where the Government has taken an active decision to accommodate them on humanitarian or other grounds.

"In this case, these people may be attempting to enter New Zealand illegally and in a way that makes it difficult to check on their health status and their identities. This exposes New Zealand to some risks. We have border controls in order to manage those risks and we are not going to compromise our own ability to keep our borders secure.

"If illegal immigrants do enter New Zealand they will be detained under the Immigration Amendment Act 1999, and processed accordingly.

"We have no information regarding the intentions of the illegal migrants should they arrive in New Zealand. At all times, illegal immigrants will be treated with respect and dignity in accordance with this country's responsibilities under the 1951 UN Convention on the Status of Refugees," Mr Delamere said.

New Zealand signed up to this Convention in 1960 as a reflection of its concern for human rights and the desire to participate in international burden-sharing in refugee situations.

An important provision is the obligation by which governments undertake not to return a refugee to a country where the refugee's life or freedom would be threatened for reasons such as race, religion, or political beliefs.

"Spontaneous asylum seekers are able to present their case for refuge subject to a special administrative process and undergo a full determination process before a decision is made on their status," Mr Delamere said.

Ends

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