Christmas comes early for immigration bureaucrats

The Government’s review of the Immigration Act shows that Labour is willing to enter a bidding war with National and New Zealand First for the anti-immigrant vote, Green Party Immigration Spokesperson Keith Locke says.

“The summary document that has emerged from the consultations is a bureaucrat’s dream come true – it gives more power to officials, and reduces oversight of their activities. It expands the powers of immigration officials to detain people, and to enter and search homes and businesses – while it limits the opportunity for migrants to appeal against decisions that have sweeping implications for their lives,” Mr Locke says.

“The review has put administrative convenience ahead of basic rights to natural justice and due process. It proposes to give officials the right to base their decisions on secret information to which migrants would not have access.

“This secret information may relate to such vague factors as being of good character. Even for permanent residents, these grounds can be revisited up to five years later — which could undermine the ability of new residents to feel confident about getting on with their lives in New Zealand.

“The review proposes scrapping the existing four independent appeal boards and having only one appeal authority. In fact, the existing system is hardly a soft touch. The Refugee Status Appeals Authority for instance, routinely rejects over 80 percent of appeals made to it.

“Moreover, the existing system seems very good indeed at detecting errors by officials. The Residence Review Board for instance, upheld 44 percent of appeals last year, with 36 percent of those successful cases being due to errors made by immigration officials. Why should we be setting out to give these bungling officials even more power?

“The Immigration Act lacked clarity, and needed to be reviewed. Yet it must strike a far better balance between administrative convenience and natural justice. New Zealand has to welcome migrants, not treat them as the enemy. In the name of streamlining immigration procedures, the Government is actually making the system more difficult for many potential migrants.

“We should not be forcing migrants and refugees to go to court to try and make New Zealand live up to the spirit and the letter of the international conventions it has signed on refugees, and migrants.”