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New Zealand legislation failing asylum seekers

4th February 2014

New Zealand legislation failing asylum seekers

A UN report that includes several recommendations on the rights of asylum seekers has been welcomed by the Refugee Sector Strategic Alliance (RSSA).

‘Clearly, the Universal Periodic Review Working Group is extremely worried about the erosion of the rights of asylum seekers in NZ,’ says Tim O’Donovan, Co-Chair of the RSSA. The RSSA, a national collective of organisations working with and/or on behalf of refugee-background communities, aims to ensure New Zealanders who come from refugee backgrounds are able to participate fully in New Zealand life.

‘Six of the recommendations are specific to asylum seekers. Given that New Zealand only receives a very small number of asylum seekers, this indicates the level of concern the Working Group has about asylum seeker legislation,’ says O’Donovan.

The UN Working Group’s recommendations include the need to further tackle the challenges concerning the rights of refugees and asylum seekers, ensuring genuine asylum seekers are not arbitrarily and unfairly discriminated against and that New Zealand’s immigration legislation is in accordance with international human rights obligations.

The RSSA shares the UN Working Group’s concerns, noting recent immigration changes including the passing of the Mass Arrivals Bill into legislation in 2013. These concerns are evidence by recent research according to O’Donovan.

‘Research released in December 2013 found that asylum seekers have severely limited access to support services both before and after being recognised as Convention refugees and gaining Permanent Residency. This research along with the recommendations made by the UN Working Group indicates we have some work to do to ensure people can realise their right to seek asylum,’ says O’Donovan.

‘The RSSA is hopeful that the New Zealand government takes these recommendations seriously. As a country we need to ensure that people, regardless of how and with whom they arrive, can realise their right to seek asylum. We have a proud human rights record that we need to protect. The Working Group’s concerns need to be addressed and we look forward to the Government’s response,’ says O’Donovan.


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