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Citizenship Proposal will lead to Child Poverty

Friday 17 September, 2004

Citizenship Proposal will lead to Greater Child Poverty

A Caritas delegation appeared before the Government Administration Select Committee to make an oral submission on a proposed amendment to the Identity (Citizenship and Travel Documents) Bill.

The amendment of the Bill proposes to remove the rights of citizenship for children born in New Zealand whose parents are not residents or citizens. Caritas opposes this amendment as there is the real possibility these children would not be able to access funding for healthcare and education, which is made on the basis that the person is a New Zealand citizen.

Caritas domestic advocacy and research officer, Lisa Beech said that the key motivation for this amendment was to prevent those who come to New Zealand on visitor’s visa s solely to give birth. Caritas does not support “birth-only” visitors to New Zealand, but is concerned with the much larger number of people who are on long term work or student’s visas, who are clearly working towards long term residence in New Zealand.

Lisa Beech said this lack of support for their children, could cause developmental delays and long term health needs caused by early deprivation or lack of appropriate health care. “Removing New Zealand citizenship from these children will not save New Zealand money in the long term, nor will it remove then from our society. It will only mean that we will continue to have an underclass of particularly needy children who were not supported in their infancy.”

Caritas was also concerned that the amendment breached Articles 7 and 8 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, concerning a child’s right to nationality and identity and that the amendment did not adequately ensure that it does not result in stateless children.

“We must ensure that no child born in New Zealand ends up stateless, and as an absolute minimum this amendment must sure that a child born in New Zealand who is unable to obtain citizenship through descent can obtain New Zealand citizenship rather than be left stateless.”

Lisa Beech said if the amendment were to remove citizenship rights from these children then we could not expect them to have the same ongoing commitment to New Zealand as children who are born into citizenship.

Caritas urged the Select Committee to have a longer period in which to consider the amendments proposed in this Bill as the Supplementary Order Paper was not available at the time submissions on the Identity Bill closed on Friday.

ENDS

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