Passports Act changes pose threat to citizenship rights

Green MP Keith Locke expressed concern today that the Government’s plans to amend the Passports Act will remove long accepted citizenship rights.

“As reported, the changes would give the government arbitrary powers to cancel a New Zealand passport on the grounds of national security,” said Mr Locke, the party’s Human Rights spokesperson.

“The Ahmed Zaoui case shows how dangerous it is to give a Minister, hiding behind a wall of secrecy, such draconian powers.

“Those New Zealanders who have been blas√© about the treatment of refugees like Mr Zaoui should wake up to the fact that their human rights are now in the firing line.

“This legislation is not being driven by any objective need. It is simply the government trying to prove to foreign governments that it’s doing its bit for the so-called ‘war on terror’.

“If a New Zealander is guilty of some crime then put them before a court of law, but don’t give a Minister the sole power to stop people who haven’t been charged from going overseas.

“This is a dangerous move back to the McCarthy period, when American governments denied travel documents to people like Charlie Chaplin and Paul Robeson, claiming they were security threats.

“Several other changes in the bill will unnecessarily inconvenience new residents. There is no good reason to increase the qualifying period for citizenship from three to five years, or to end the discounting of time spent here on work or student permits.

“Our present system isn’t broken, so we don’t need to fix it.

“The Greens are also very concerned at reports that the bill will remove automatic citizenship from children born here, if their parents do not have residence. This would remove a long-recognised human right, and its absurd to think the country would be flooded with such people coming back to settle here when they have grown up,” said Mr Locke.