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UN Report a wake-up call for Government

14 August 2002

Media Statement

(For Immediate Release)

UN Report a wake-up call for Government

The Human Rights Foundation is calling for a review of the Government’s refugee policies following UN criticism of New Zealand for its detention and treatment of asylum seekers since last year’s terrorist attacks in the United States.

The Human Rights Foundation is the non-government organisation which, with the Refugee Council, initiated the successful High Court proceedings that ruled the Government’s refugee detention policy unlawful.

Peter Hosking, the Foundation’s Executive Director says the UN Report is a wake-up call for the Government. “We told the Government at the time that its detention policy would undermine New Zealand’s human rights standing and it has done just that. New Zealand often takes the high ground on international human rights issues and did so just yesterday with the Prime Minister’s call for Zimbabwe’s expulsion from the Commonwealth. Our human rights credibility is an essential part of both our foreign policy and our aid programme. The UN Report is a foreign policy setback, and reinforces the High Court decision that the current refugee detention policy cannot be sustained. We cannot afford to have our human rights standards degraded in this way,” he says.

Peter Hosking says the Foundation wants a thorough review of New Zealand’s approach to refugees, in conjunction with the non-governmental community that works with refugees. “The new refugee detention policy and the immigration law changes in July were implemented in haste with the election looming,” he says. “We can understand the Government’s desire not to be outflanked on immigration issues during an election campaign by fringe parties in search of 5% of the vote, but it is now time to step back and take a considered approach to the problem.”

The Foundation will be writing to the Minister of Immigration seeking a meeting to discuss its call for a review of current refugee policies.


Note for Editors:

For more information on the Human Rights Foundation, and to view a copy of the Foundation’s report on the routine detention of asylum seekers Freedoms Ramparts on the Sea, visit the Human Rights Foundation’s website at www.humanrights.co.nz

For a copy of the Report of the United Nations Human Rights Committee compiled under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, visit the website of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights at www.unhchr.ch or contact the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade Ph (04) 494 8500


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