Government in denial over Zaoui case

The Immigration Minister David Cunliffe needs to give an explanation for his refusal to allow the family of Algerian refugee Ahmed Zaoui to be re-united in the interim while the SIS and Inspector-General Paul Neazor drag their feet on the review of his case, Green Party Human Rights Spokesperson Keith Locke says.

“There is no way the presence of the family on a temporary visa can affect how the Inspector-General does his job. The courts have already explicitly told the Inspector-General he is not to consider the humanitarian aspects of Mr Zaoui’s situation,” Mr Locke says.

“Mr Zaoui has no safe haven overseas to take himself and his family. The United Nations has more than once asked New Zealand to accept this family, whom it has declared to be genuine refugees in their own right. The decision is particularly heartless when one considers how unlikely the Inspector-General will have the review ready to begin by July.

“Many steps still need to be taken. Apparently, Mr Neazor is still some time away from assessing all the SIS documents, and providing a summary of them to the Zaoui defence. Only then can the special advocate Stuart Grieve QC be briefed by the Zaoui defence team on the relevant aspects of the case — which, on British experience with such cases, would require at least a month.

“Mr Grieve then has to go to Wellington to peruse the SIS files — which reportedly amount to some 6,000 pages, with nearly a thousand of them directly relevant to the case. He then has to return to Auckland and analyse them, a big job in itself.

“Only then can the special advocate start to make submissions to the Inspector-General about what elements of the secret files should be released to the Zaoui defence team. This triggers a process of argument and negotiation between the Inspector — General, the SIS Director and the special advocate over what can and can’t be released. This stage, again on British experience, is the most time consuming part of the process.

“Only when this stage is completed can the Zaoui team begin to book their defence witnesses from overseas with a realistic idea of when they will be needed need in New Zealand. Once the review is finished, the draft decision by the Inspector-General, if at all prejudicial to the SIS, has to be forwarded to them for comment before a final decision can be announced.

“It is difficult to see how all this can be done before Christmas. Mr Cunliffe is simply not being realistic when he cites a June to August timeframe for completion of the review. On compassionate grounds, Mr Cunliffe should allow the family to be re-united, since it has been the Crown’s ongoing failure to get its act together in reasonable time that is forcing the Zaoui children to grow up without their father.”