New Immigration Bill a bureaucrat’s Paradise

Green Party Immigration Spokesperson Keith Locke has criticised the Immigration Bill tabled today that gives immigration officials the power to subject New Zealand travellers to random biometric identity checks, and to use secret information in immigration proceedings.

“The use of iris scans and fingerprinting at New Zealand airports to check whether travellers really are New Zealand citizens carries no guidelines for how such intrusions should be exercised. This is a major step towards a surveillance society – and is overkill, when measured against the low levels of threat actually facing New Zealand.

“The Bill also imports some of the worst features of the Ahmed Zaoui case — namely, the use of secret information and special advocates — into the general business of immigration proceedings.

“The possibly decisive secret information that can now be concealed from the appellant may not even be SIS material. The definition of classified information has been broadened so that it can now mean virtually anything — including gossip, hearsay, or malicious information from rivals — that the Immigration Service chief executive has decided should be kept secret for whatever reason he chooses, including on the vague grounds that disclosure might affect our ‘international relations’.

“Immigration Minister David Cunliffe seems to have weakly granted to his departmental officials their virtual wishlist of extended powers, including enhanced powers of search, entry and detention without warrant.

“The new rules are particularly unfair to anyone that the Minister or his officials deem to be a security risk.

“If they don’t have refugee status like Mr Zaoui, they can be summarily deported. Even if they have the protection of refugee status, they can still be liable for deportation on the basis of the secret information they will not be allowed to see or challenge. There will be special advocates, but once they have seen the classified information, they won’t be able to talk to the person affected.

“The Bill also scraps the four existing immigration appeal bodies, and rolls them all into one all powerful Tribunal – which unlike in the British system, doesn’t require the panel judging an appeal to have expertise in immigration and security law.

“The valuable role the Minister has played as a final destination for special circumstances and humanitarian considerations has also been cut back, or delegated to officials,” Mr Locke says.