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Dalziel's Humanitarian Approach To Policy

Dalziel's Humanitarian Approach To Hard-Line Policy


Immigration Minister Lianne Dalziel said today that recently announced changes to immigration policy offered an effective and humanitarian solution to New Zealand's overstayer problem.

The policy was made for a range of humanitarian, social and economic reasons that were necessary to correct years of failed immigration policy in this area, the Minister said.

Lianne Dalziel was commenting on the release, under the Official Information Act, of departmental papers on the changes to immigration policy.

"When I announced the one-off opportunity for well-settled overstayers to have their status regularised, I made it clear then that this was a realistic and fair way to clean the slate ahead of tougher new immigration laws.

"Without this one-off regularisation, we would have been compelled to forcibly separate families - taking husbands from wives, parents from their children - despite the fact they were well-settled, contributing members of society. This government is not in the business of wrenching families apart.

"The papers make it clear that the overstaying problem cannot be eliminated entirely. The costs incurred reflect the need to correct poor policy and unworkable decisions of the past that ignored the contributions being made by overstayers who were well-settled, paying taxes, and otherwise law abiding with strong family connections in New Zealand.

"The costs will not impact upon the GAPS programme given its size and scope. Indeed areas such as health and housing, having the status of well-settled overstayers regularised, may well reduce costs.

"This government's decision to count these people as part of the immigration target means that the policy could cost at most, $12.471 million over four years, however that amount ignores the fact that people who claim benefits during the two year period of the Transitional Policy will not be eligible for residence.

"In fact, the costs are small when considering the benefits to the communities and families of well-settled people. In introducing this measure, I also took into account that only a small number – between 5,700 and 7,700 - of the total number of overstayers would fall into the well-settled category.
"The transitional provisions allow overstayers up until 30 March 2001 to lodge applications for a two-year work permit and only after that period can they seek permanent residence in New Zealand.

"This means that successful applicants will be self-supporting and not on benefits. The people we are talking about here are making real contributions to New Zealand.

"The previous Government made one step towards resolving the overstayer issue with its 1991 Transitional Policy which was not accompanied by a tougher removal regime. Now we have a tougher removal regime, it has to be accompanied by a consideration of well-settled overstayers. It's the combination of the two policies that will effective," Lianne Dalziel said.

"The decision to count those who qualify under the Transitional Policy as part of the immigration target for the year they acquire residence, does not mean that a reduction is to be made in overall targets. Skilled people are coming to New Zealand in increasing numbers.

"The policy has received overwhelming support from a range of community and church leaders.

"The next step is the development of a systematic removals process which will ensure that we don't have a build up of well-settled overstayers in the future.

"In particular, I have asked my officials to look at strengthening sponsors' obligations and the responsibilities of employers to ensure they are not employing overstayers."

Ends


Note: Copies of released documents available on request.

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