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Newman On-Line: Ahmed Zaoui

Ahmed Zaoui

This week, Newman On-line looks at the complexities of the Zaoui case and how it can possibly be that someone suspected by the SIS of being a terrorist threat, can now be walking free.

Immigration is an issue of major concern in this country. Most New Zealanders deeply treasure our Kiwi culture and way of life. We worry that wrong immigration decisions can have the effect of undermining those values that we hold so dear.

That is why we want new immigrants to share our aspirations to create a better New Zealand – family orientated, hardworking, and law abiding. It is also why concerns over the Algerian asylum seeker Ahmed Zaoui, have run so hot.

Mr Zaoui, a suspected member of a militant Islamic terrorist group, landed in New Zealand on 4th of December 2002. He destroyed his false South African travel documents on arrival and claimed refugee status. As a result, a warrant of commitment was issued under Part 4A of the Immigration Act and, two days later, he was placed in maximum-security at Auckland’s Paremoremo Prison.

On January 30th 2003 his application for refugee status, which had just been declined, was appealed to the Refugee Status Appeal Authority.

However, before that appeal could be heard, on March 20th the Director of Security issued New Zealand’s first ever security risk certificate under the 1998 amendments to the Immigration Act. The certificate was passed over to the Minister of Immigration who accepted that Mr Zaoui could present a risk to national security and agreed that he should remain in detention until the Inspector General of Intelligence and Security had reviewed the case.

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Meanwhile, on August 1st the Refugee Status Appeal Authority found in favour of Mr Zaoui, deeming that he be granted refugee status. That meant that when the Inspector General finally began the process of reviewing the security risk certificate on October 15th, Mr Zaoui’s lawyers were successful in their application for a judicial review. That effectively prevented any decision being reached as to whether or not he is a security risk to New Zealand.

In the meantime Mr Zaoui was transferred from Paremoremo to Auckland Central Remand Prison.

By March of this year Mr Zaoui’s lawyers commenced court proceedings to get him released from prison on the grounds that it is an unlawful breach of human rights to hold someone in prison without a charge for an extended period of time. The case was however turned down by the courts on the grounds that the only suitable place to detain a refugee with a security risk certificate issued against them is prison.

The case was finally appealed to the new Supreme Court which last month decided that a person detained with a security risk certificate could in fact be released on bail. As a result, last Friday Mr Zaoui was freed, not into the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre where his activities could be closely monitored, but into the care of Auckland's Dominican friars who must only ensure that he is in residence between 10pm and 6am and that he reports to the Auckland Central Police Station each Tuesday and Friday.

The end result of poor legislation combined with unacceptably long delays in the legal process is that we are now in the bizarre situation whereby an illegal immigrant - deemed by the SIS to be a risk to national security - is walking free. Not only that, but neither the Refugee Status Appeal Authority who decided he was suitable to become a Kiwi, nor the Supreme Court who said he could go free, were privy to the information held by the SIS which had resulted in the unprecedented issuing of a security risk certificate.

What should have happened in this case is that as soon as the SIS had revealed to the Minister of Immigration that the security concerns over Mr Zaoui were serious, and that the process of reviewing those concerns appeared to be far from straight forward, the Government should have clarified the law in Parliament. That way the Refugee Status Appeal Authority would have had the full facts before deciding whether Mr Zaoui was fit to be granted refugee status and the Courts would have been clear on whether or not he should be free.

While the Prime Minister has acknowledged that an urgent law change is needed, she has failed to act, instead choosing to fill up Parliament’s time with her social engineering agenda which, while certainly of importance to minority groups, gives little comfort to the views of the majority who desperately want New Zealand to be kept safe from terrorists.

A few years ago, at the request of a constituent, I visited another illegal immigrant who was being held in prison. He had originally come from Eastern Europe to New Zealand on a false passport, and was being detained after an aborted attempt by the Immigration Department to deport him had ended in tears - the country of origin would not accept the department’s paperwork and they returned him to New Zealand!

After many months in prison, while the paper work was being redone – and it looked like the process could take years – he was released on bail to the Mangere Refugee and Resettlement Centre. With freedom within his reach, I understand that his stay there was short. One day he failed to return and is now one of the more than 20,000 illegal immigrants at large in New Zealand.

They say that justice delayed is justice denied. In the Zaoui case, New Zealand citizens have been penalised twice over: firstly, the delays in this case have cost taxpayers millions of dollars, and secondly, by failing to act on a needed law change, the Government has allowed a suspected terrorist to go free. By doing so, the Government is again reinforcing the impression that, as far as national security issues are concerned, New Zealand is a soft touch. That is unforgivable.

Weekly PC FREE NZ campaign hot issue: With the new smokefree laws being seen as “the latest cog in the Government’s social engineering experiment”, isn’t it strange that, with the over-representation of Maori in smoker statistics, marae, housie halls and prisons, are all excluded from the smoking ban!


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