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Newsletters > Diversity Action Programme > Te Punanga: Refugee Focus > 2012 > May

Te Punanga: Refugee Focus

ISSN 1178-0940 May, 2012

News & Issues

The Government has announced amendments to the Immigration Act to deter a mass arrival of potentially illegal migrants into New Zealand.

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The amendments will:

  • establish a definition of “mass arrival” in the Act
  • allow detention under group warrant for an initial period of up to six months (unless Immigration New Zealand requests, or the District Court Judge directs, a shorter period of time; or where there are exceptional circumstances in individual cases)
  • enable further detention on group or individual warrants for periods of up to 28 days on a warrant of commitment issued by a District Court Judge
  • allow regulations to be made to suspend processing of particular asylum claims,
  • streamline the processing of asylum claims and appeals.

The Bill has been referred to select committee with submissions due on 9 June 2012. The Bill has caused significant alarm within the refugee sector.

The Commission invites members of the Immigration Bar, Service providers, Former Refugees, and other interested parties to a roundtable discussion on the proposed amendments to the Immigration Act. The session aims to provide information as well as to discuss key human rights and other practical concerns with the Bill. This is an opportunity to encourage and facilitate engagement in the select committee process.


Date    :           Friday 25 May 2012
Time   :           2.30pm – 4.30 pm
Venue :           Human Rights Commission, Level 1, 44 the Terrace, Wellington

RSVP by 5pm on Friday 23 May to Michael White. Afternoon tea will be provided.


Date    :           Saturday 26 May 2012
Time   :           10.30am – 1:00pm
Venue :           Lynfield Room, Fickling Convention Centre 546 Mt Albert Road, Three Kings

RSVP by 5pm on Thursday 24 May to Michael White. A light lunch will be provided.

The Human Rights Commission says proposed changes to the Immigration Act 2009 threaten New Zealand’s obligations under the UN Refugee Convention and potentially lack compliance with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.

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The Commission is particularly concerned about:

  • the introduction of mandatory detention under group warrants
  • the restrictions on family reunification
  • the changes to review processes.

Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres says New Zealand has obligations under the Refugee Convention that are separate and independent of the country’s voluntary quota of 750 refugees as part of its annual resettlement quota on behalf of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

New Zealand has obligations as a party to the Refugee Convention to:

  • ensure that people who meet the United Nations definition of refugee are granted asylum
  • not to impose any penalties on an asylum seeker based on their mode of entry to New Zealand (Article 31).

Mr de Bres says, “How an asylum seeker arrives in New Zealand should have no bearing on their right to apply for refugee status and protection.”

Mandatory detention on the basis of group warrants also raised issues of reasonableness and ultimately could amount to arbitrary detention breaching section 22 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.

Mr de Bres says, “Our international obligations under the convention are clear. New Zealand must protect the human rights of all asylum seekers and refugees who arrive in New Zealand, regardless of how or where they arrive, and whether they arrive with or without a visa.”

International guidance requires detention to be used only where necessary, as a matter of last resort and for the shortest periods possible. The proposed amendments seem to be at odds with international best practice and natural justice. The Commission will be making a submission on this bill through the select committee process.

Read the Immigration Amendment Bill.

The Refugee Council of New Zealand released a statement saying that the proposed amendments to the only recently overhauled Immigration Act 2009 were unnecessary, will not work as a deterrent to possible future boat arrivals, and would risk taking New Zealand “down the slippery slope” repeating the same mistakes as Australia. Read the full article online.

Meanwhile, the Minister of Immigration Nathan Guy announced that the Government had started an exercise to test New Zealand’s preparations for a mass arrival of asylum seekers by boat. He said that “The aim is to make sure New Zealand is fully prepared to respond to a mass arrival by sea of potentially illegal immigrants. We know that New Zealand has been a target in the past for people smugglers, and we need to be prepared for future attempts.“It will start from first notification that a vessel is on the way, through to processing and accommodating these asylum seekers while their claims are determined.”

Exercise Barrier 2012 will take place over eight weeks, running until late June.  The exercise will include simulated mass arrival at Devonport Naval Base in June. Read the full article online.

Refugee Services Chief Executive Heather Hayden, writing in the May issue of the Refugee Services newsletter A Place to Call Home, expressed concern at some recent shifts in government policy.

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She referred in particular to a “significant reduction in finding for social services social services in general and specifically for Refugee Services to provide an adequate level of support for former refugees as they build new lives in New Zealand.” She said the impact of this on their ability to provide key services and the pressure it will put on other agencies will be enormous.

She also listed a second shift of concern, namely the move to provide more and more services used by former refugees through call centres, hotlines and “smart phones”, which pose significant challenges for non-English-speaking refugees and those who support them. She said the new systems require a much higher level of involvement from Refugee Services staff and their trained volunteers in a time when funding for support has been reduced and the expectations around successful resettlement have increased dramatically. It also delays the ability of former refugees to feel and become independent, which is the primary mission of her organisation.

She said that “New Zealand is internationally regarded for the quality of our resettlement programme, and we are seen as leaders around the world. Refugee Services are concerned however that these changes in policy will damage this reputation as well as our programme and our ability to give refugees the fresh start they deserve.”

World Refugee Day takes place on 20 June, and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has launched an Art Contest for Australian and New Zealand school children to promote education about refugee issues and promote a culture of respect and tolerance.

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School children of all ages are invited to create works of art illustrating the theme of World Refugee Day 2012, which is “One refugee without hope is too many”. Entries close on 30 May 2012.

The twelve winning entries will be announced in the lead up to World Refugee Day on 20 June 2012 and will be included in UNHCR’s 2013 calendar.

UNHCR Regional Representative Richard Towle said that the lead up to World Refugee Day is an appropriate time to reflect on what communities can do to help UNHCR to help refugees rebuild their lives.

"I hope as many students as possible take part in this Contest and in some informed, fact-based discussions on the challenges facing refugees and asylum-seekers around the world,” said Mr Towle. 

“We hope people in communities all around Australia and New Zealand will reflect on the simple statement, ‘one refugee without hope is too many’, and think about what causes conflict and displacement and what we can do to help those who are forced to flee to find safety, regain hope, and rebuild their lives.”

UNHCR has a range of materials and information that teachers and students can access to stimulate discussion on these issues which can be accessed, along with more information about the Contest and World Refugee Day. at For more information contact  aulcapi@unhcr.org or +61 2 6281 9108.

Each year the Department of Labour, on behalf of government agencies, hosts a national forum for a wide range of refugee resettlement stakeholder participants from refugee communities, NGO resettlement service providers, government agencies, and international organisations. Continue reading…

The National Refugee Resettlement Forum (NRRF) is the key national engagement event for government consultation that informs decision-making on refugee resettlement policy and services, and for resettlement issues to be raised by service provider and refugee stakeholders.

 The 2012 Forum is to be held on 30 and 31 May at Te Papa, Wellington. The purpose of this years' forum is to:

  • inform participants about international trends, New Zealand policy and research and effective programmes for refugee resettlement,
  • provide an opportunity for government agencies to engage with refugee communities on identified challenges of resettlement, and
  • network and discuss the challenges and responses to matters affecting effective and sustained refugee resettlement in New Zealand.

 For more information please contact the Department of Labour.

Settlement Support Manukau invites Service providers, Employers, Migrants and Former Refugees in Manukau to the next networking meeting on Saturday 9 June from 10am to 1pm at the Council Chambers, 35A St George Street Papatoetoe. 

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The meeting will focus on the Rights and Responsibilities of a New Zealander.

The session aims to bring information as well as address practical and challenging social justice issues that people come across in their daily lives.  This is an opportunity to interact with the Human Rights Commission, NZ Police, Health Advocates, e.t.c pertaining to your rights.

The meeting will start at 9:30 with registrations and morning tea, and end at 1pm followed by lunch.  If your organisation provides support in the area of human rights and would like a space to display resources, please contact  ssnzmanukau@arms-mrc.org.nz by Friday 1June. 

To register please phone09 2635490 or email ssnzmanukau@arms-mrc.org.nz.

ChangeMakers Refugee Forum will launch its latest research focussing on employment within the refugee-background communities, at the National Refugee Resettlement Forum, to be held in Wellington on 30-31 May.

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The report, ‘People with refugee backgrounds can do the job’: Refugee-background experiences of employment in Wellington, explores how employment contributes to the successful resettlement of people from refugee backgrounds. ChangeMakers conducted focus groups and interviews with 17 people in employment from 11 different refugee-background communities to provide greater depth of understanding to the following areas:

  • What it means to have a job
  • Factors enabling people from refugee backgrounds to gain employment
  • Barriers and challenges to obtaining a job and meaningful employment.

For more information contact ChangeMakers Refugee Forum.

The Human Rights Commission and ChangeMakers Refugee Forum, invite you to a Refugee Community Forum on Disability and Human Rights.

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The forum will be held on Saturday 9 June from 2-5.30pm at the New Dowse Gallery Museum in Lower Hutt (opposite the Refugee Services Building).  The venue has wheelchair access.

At this forum you will:

  • learn about your rights as a disabled person or as somebody supporting a disabled adult or child
  • share your stories, and your family’s, about disability: What’s working? What should be improved?

If you are able to attend please confirm before Friday 25 May so this workshop can go ahead by contacting Carina at ChangeMakers Refugee Forum Ph 801-5812 or Desigin at the Human Rights Commission Ph 471 6749.

Also, please inform the organisers if you need an interpreter or have any other special requirements. Food will be provided and reasonable travel costs reimbursed.

If you are unable to attend but would like to know about disability rights and/or tell your story contact Desigin Thulkanam Ph  471 6749.

The Human Rights Commission, Ombudsmen, Children’s Commissioner, Independent Police Conduct Authority, and Inspector of Service Penal Establishments invite members of civil society to meet with them to discuss their work in monitoring places of detention and to seek your views on the conditions and treatment of people in detention.

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Date:               Tuesday 29 May
Time:              11.00am -12.20pm
Venue:            Human Rights Commission, Level 3, Zurich House 21 Queen Street, Auckland Central

Please RSVP to Jessica Ngatai, Ph0800 496 877.

Further information is available on the Human Rights Commission website.