The Green Party has written to Immigration Minister Tuariki Delamere asking him to release 17 asylum seekers from Mt Eden Prison.
The following is the text of the letter, from party foreign affairs spokesperson Keith Locke:
“I appeal you to show compassion to the 17 asylum seekers currently held in Mt Eden Prison. They are suffering considerable mental stress. The physical condition of 15 is deteriorating after 12 days on a protest hunger strike.
“The Green Party believes we should support all asylum seekers in the most humane manner. Many have had traumatic experiences in their home countries.
“We should not add to that distress by incarcerating them while their applications are processed. The near-medieval Mt Eden prison is the very worst place to keep the refugees. We would ask you to release them immediately.
“Their detention is in clear contravention of international refugee conventions.
“You appear concerned that those imprisoned might not be legitimate refugees, and will go underground if released. Compassion dictates that we take that risk. It is not easy to process refugees. Many are forced to flee their countries without proper documentation. The 17 currently being held are all from places (Iran, Pakistan and the Sikh part of India) where there is political persecution.
“While their status is being finalised the refugees should be placed in the community, not kept behind bars. In this case we have a Sikh community keen and able to help assist most of those detained.”