Open the refugee prisons

A High Court challenge to the detention and incarceration of asylum seekers is being backed by Green Party immigration spokesperson Keith Locke.

The Human Rights Foundation and Auckland Refugee Council have filed proceedings in the High Court, seeking a determination that the detentions are illegal.

“The large increase in detentions since September 11 is definitely against international guidelines,” said Mr Locke.

“It is also inhumane. We are adding insult to injury by detaining already traumatised asylum seekers for weeks at a time. I have been visiting very distressed asylum seekers at Auckland Central Remand Prison who can’t understand why New Zealand is doing this to them.”

As of February 27 there were five asylum seekers detained in the remand prison. One, from Pakistan had been there over three months while three Indians have been detained for an average of two months each.

“This is heartless — and it is also pointless, as figures provided to me by Immigration Minister Lianne Dalziel show that most detained asylum seekers subsequently get refugee status.

“Of the 63 people detained at the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre since September 11, 21 have been granted refugee status so far, and only seven declined. In addition, 131 people from the Tampa were detained and all but one have been granted refugee status.

“The government should return to the pre-September 11 practice of letting asylum seekers go into open hostels or private homes. It worked before, it’s humane, and it is in line with international refugee practice,” said Mr Locke.