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World Vision calls for Mass Arrivals Bill to be scrapped.

08 Aug 2023 by World Vision
World Vision calls for Mass Arrivals Bill to be scrapped.

World Vision New Zealand is urging the Government to abandon progress of the Mass Arrivals Bill which would extend the amount of time irregular maritime arrivals, including asylum seekers, can be detained.

This week, the Foreign Affairs, Defence, and Trade Select Committee recommended the proposed bill should not become law, but the Government has decided to progress the bill anyway.

The bill would mean asylum seekers could be detained without warrant for up to 28 days, as opposed to four days under the current legislation.

World Vision’s Head of Advocacy and Justice, Rebekah Armstrong, acknowledges that there need to be measures in place to protect New Zealand’s borders, but she says these measures need to uphold the best interests of children, potential asylum seekers, and potential victims of modern slavery who may enter New Zealand through irregular maritime arrival.

“The proposed bill places a blanket of criminality over all irregular maritime arrivals without extending humanitarian principles or the benefit of the doubt. It breaches human rights law, and it shouldn’t go ahead, “she says.

Armstrong points out that there is widespread opposition to the bill, with more than 300 submissions to the Select Committee against the proposal. This includes submissions from World Vision, Amnesty International, and the Human Rights Commission.

She says the proposed law breaches human rights and the guidance of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

The UNHCR states that detention should be an “exceptional measure that can be justified only by a legitimate purpose and when its necessity, reasonableness, and proportionality is based on an individual assessment for each person.

The UNHCR’s detention guidelines further outline that “detention of asylum seekers should normally be avoided and a measure of last resort.

“Children, including child asylum seekers, should not be detained as part of an irregular maritime arrival and the best interests of children should always be upheld. UNHCR guidance and international law confirm this,” she says.

The Government’s move to detain mass arrivals comes on top of other refugee policy decisions that have been problematic this year.

This includes a failure to make-up the refugee quota for the ‘covid years’ when very few refugees resettled in New Zealand and the Government’s Special Ukraine Visa which has seen only 362 Ukrainians arriving in New Zealand.

“At a time when the world is experiencing a refugee crisis, the New Zealand government needs to show a greater level of compassion and acknowledgement of human rights. Many other countries are opening their doors to provide refuge and humanitarian solidarity and we need to do the same,” Armstrong says.

World Vision urges the Government to listen to the calls from the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee, as well as New Zealanders who have spoken out against this proposal and put a halt to this law progressing immediately.