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Immigration powers raise Bill of Rights issues

Immigration powers raise Bill of Rights issues

The Immigration Amendment Bill (No 2) triggers Bill of Rights issues, the New Zealand Law Society says.

One of the bill’s key aims is to address the exploitation of migrant workers, with proposed section 277A used to expand the power of immigration officers to do so.

The Law Society is disquieted about the proposed extension of immigration officers’ powers to conduct a search without a warrant to include the search of any premises such as houses, and the ability to demand answers to questions in certain circumstances.
The Law Society says the conferral of these powers breaches the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure and to remain silent, guaranteed by the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.

The bill allows an immigration officer, upon entering premises, the power to require certain categories of person to answer questions about immigration status and legality of employment.

This may make the person a “detainee”, potentially exposing the person questioned to criminal prosecution.

Law Society spokesperson Dr Rodney Harrison QC told the select committee considering the bill that powers to search private premises without a warrant should be granted only in exceptional cases where the need is clearly justified.

“Without these circumstances, any intrusion should occur only with prior and independent authorisation,” Dr Harrison says.

The Law Society recommends that the proposed section 277A ensures any questions put by an immigration officer cannot be used in proceedings against the person interviewed and that it expressly specifies matters that can be addressed.

The bill also proposes that if a visa is pending, an applicant must inform of any relevant fact or material change in circumstances.

Under the proposed bill the minister could deport an immigrant worker for any relevant information that is concealed, leaving no room for innocent omissions.


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