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Advocate Group Adamant The Leak Not Theirs

Media statement on behalf of Shakti Community Council Inc.
27 February 2004

Advocate Group Adamant The Leak Not Theirs

The Shakti Community Council, a human rights advocacy group that provided significant support for Youth A prior to her deportation to Sri Lanka, wishes to make it very clear that its members were not involved in releasing the information/guinea pig letter to the Minister of Immigration.

Kathryn Beck of Haigh Lyon, acting on behalf of Shakti says that the group and individuals within it are willing to participate in any enquiry to be carried out by the State Services Commission and are completely confident that any leak did not originate from them.

“Shakti welcomes the opportunity to be involved in clarifying what has clearly become a very confusing situation,” Ms Beck says. “Obviously Youth A's welfare was and is their primary focus, but the group is also concerned about false allegations of their involvement in the inappropriate release of documentation.”

Kathryn Beck says that Shakti is clear about the group’s access to the letter in question.

“Shakti was contacted by Ms Curtis in July 2003 with the request that members visit Youth A and provide her with emotional support as well as lobby on her behalf with the Prime Minister. Subsequently, Ms Curtis couriered documentation that she believed relevant to their involvement, including copies of documents sent by the Refugee Status Appeals Authority to Marshall Bird & Curtis with a covering letter which had the drawing of a guinea pig on it and some handwritten notes.

“On the basis of this information provided to it, Shakti wrote to the Immigration Minister asking that Youth A's case be reconsidered. Staff also visited Youth A at the Mangere Detention Centre. The only contact with the Mt Albert Electorate Office in this matter was at this stage, where advice was sought regarding the best way to communicate with the government. Having been advised to write directly to the Minister, they followed this advice.


“Almost immediately, Shakti received a phone call from Ms Curtis advising that she was unhappy with the steps that had been taken to date and requesting the return of all information and documentation. This was done.

“Eight days later, Ms Curtis sent the same set of documents back to Shakti requesting they continue to provide support and advocacy for Youth A. Subsequent correspondence by the group with the Associate Minister for Immigration did not include copies of these documents.

“In January 2004, Shakti was informed that the Associate Minister was not prepared to intervene in Youth A's situation and that her circumstances did not warrant an exception to immigration policy being made on her behalf.

“Shortly afterwards, staff from Shakti visited Youth A and found her in an extremely distressed state. They again wrote to the Immigration Minister requesting her intervention in the case, suggesting various compromises and requesting that in the very least, time be given to organise Youth A's stay in a third country where she would be safe. They began networking with organisations such as UNIFEM to that effect. Ms Curtis was kept up to date with these developments.

“On 12 February 2004, staff at Shakti heard by radio report that Youth A was being deported.”

Kathryn Beck says that Shakti remains committed to providing support for ethnic women suffering the effects of domestic violence in New Zealand.

ends


Editor’s note: Shakti is an organisation that began in 1995 focusing on advocating against cultural and religious oppression imposed on ethnic women. It provides support to ethnic women against domestic violence or family violence in their adopted country, New Zealand. It has received substantial support since its inception. Despite some allegations, Shakti does not share space with the Mt Albert Electorate Office.

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