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Dalziel Moves To Clear Confusion

29 August 2002

Dalziel Moves To Clear Confusion

Immigration Minister Lianne Dalziel said today there was considerable confusion around the different statistics that are being quoted by Winston Peters in his campaign against immigration.

“Mr Peters constantly confuses asylum seekers with refugees. Refugees are those who have been mandated as such by either the UNHCR or through a country’s refugee determination process, and they enter New Zealand as part of the UNHCR Resettlement Programme (quota refugees) or as asylum seekers who are granted refugee status by the Refugee Status Branch of the Immigration Service or the Refugee Status Appeal Authority.

“Asylum seekers are essentially in a state of limbo until their claims are determined.

“If their claim is approved, then they have refugee status and under the Convention, New Zealand offers protection to those people. If their claim is declined, and after all appeal rights are exhausted, they are no longer eligible to stay in New Zealand.

“All quota refugees are mandated as refugees prior to their arrival in New Zealand. Until now, all of the health screening has occurred after their arrival in New Zealand, at the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre. They are all tested for TB, HIV, Hep B and C, rubella (known as German measles), syphilis, all parasites and salmonella, and shigella.

“This year’s Budget boost will enable us to move the screening of our quota refugees off-shore.

“In the House today, I tabled a report published in the New Zealand Medical Journal which related to the health status of asylum seekers who were screened by Auckland Public Health in the calendar years 1999 and 2000.

“It is not possible to establish how many of these individuals were ultimately granted refugee status. However it is possible to speculate that the number is less than 150 of the 900 people screened based on a refugee status approval rate of less than 20%.

“The researchers identified that a significant area of concern was that after rubella (which is common in New Zealand anyway), psychological illness (which is not a third-world infectious disease) was present in the highest percentage of cases.
“Given that we know that the most significant cause of psychological illness among this population is anxiety, this government’s approach in targeting the speed of the determination process has been the right way to go.

“Winston Peters’ reference to this survey in the House today does not reflect the findings of the survey. Whether he has misunderstood the survey or whether he is mischief-making, I cannot judge.

“The rate of HIV infection identified in the survey of asylum seekers indicated a 1.1% rate of infection. Statistics that I have been provided with from my department indicate a less than 2% rate of HIV infection among refugee quota members (1995-1999).

“When Winston Peters refers to public health statistics, identifying that 16% of new HIV infections recorded in New Zealand between 1994 and 2001, were from refugees, they include asylum seekers – not all of whom are able to remain in New Zealand because they are not granted refugee status.

“The highest rate of HIV infection from a refugee population was in 1998. But it must be remembered that New Zealand has a very low rate of new HIV infection compared to other parts of the world and therefore, the percentage arising from the sub-Saharan African populations will always look high.

“The quota refugee intake arriving from Manus and Nauru this evening has already had health screening and these refugees will be fully re-screened once they are at the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre.

“It is unfortunate that Mr Peters is a attempting to create the impression that New Zealand’s health status is threatened by this very small and most vulnerable group of individuals to whom we offer protection under an international Convention. These are people who have been found to have a genuine fear of persecution. Although there is no comparison to the type of persecution they have escaped, Mr Peters’ attitude must leave them wondering when it will end,” Lianne Dalziel.


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