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Govt Mass Arrivals Bill Triggers Call for Inquiry by the UN




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New Zealand

Govt Mass Arrivals Bill Triggers Call for Inquiry by the United Nations

An early-warning request for an inquiry by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination of the United Nations Office of the Human Rights High Commissioner in Geneva has gone out regarding the Mass Arrivals Amendment Bill proposed by the Govt, which is presently before a Select Committee in Wellington.

“Quite apart from the issues relating to asylum seekers, the media and the general public unfortunately seem quite unaware of the serious human rights implications of this proposed legislation,” says Refugee Council of New Zealand spokesperson Colin Henry.

The NZ Govt is adopting in this seriously flawed bill unprecedented powers to place people in detention in military-style camps not for anything they have done, or not even by name, but simply because they arrived in a group of more than 10 persons.

The broader human rights implications are serious and it is surprising that all this seems to have gone under the public and media radar, possibly because it relates at this stage only to asylum seekers.

RCNZ and other groups have taken the matter to the UN as part of an alert to the High Commissioner of Human Rights (letter enclosed) under its early warning system. This Bill is clearly discriminatory in its intent and effects, penalising highly vulnerable bona fide refugees and discriminating against them purely on the basis of their means of arrival.

Of the 33 formal submissions on the Bill received by Parliament all but one recommended that it should not proceed any further. Numerous legal and human rights fishhooks within the proposed legislation have been highlighted in detailed submissions from the Law Society and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and many other groups.

The Refugee Council submission pointed out that this hastily-prepared Bill risks New Zealand’s international reputation and breach of human rights law for no good reason. The present Immigration Act 2009 is more than adequate to deal with the very unlikely event of a boat arrival across the turbulent Tasman Sea.

RCNZ has asked the Govt to learn from the serious mistakes now acknowledged to have been made by the Australian Government over the past 5 years. RCNZ is calling for the Govt to withdraw the proposed Bill and move toward constructive multi-party talks to address any possible future boat arrival in a rational way that conforms with international legal norms and best practices.

The Transport and Industrial Relations Committee is due to report back to Parliament on 10 September 2012.

Click here to read the CERDSubmission_July_18.pdf


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