Peters-inspired checks risk re-traumatising migrants

Green MP Keith Locke is backing migrant communities’ concerns that the immigration checks prompted by Winston Peters’ latest grandstanding are too intrusive.

“Unfortunately the dragnet is being pulled across those migrants who have already suffered the most trauma in their home countries,” said Mr Locke, the Green Party’s Human Rights Spokesperson.

“Migrants from the so-called ‘high-risk’ countries are the very people who are most likely to have experienced severe repression and war. They came here for a peaceful life in a tolerant society and are now worried that the details of their past lives are to be trawled through by authorities, the very type of repression they tried to escape.”

Immigration Minister Paul Swain told Parliament yesterday that his officials would be rechecking some 385,500 approvals, covering the nationals of 46 countries.

“The Green Party is not against proper systematic checking of immigration applications, particularly for those seeking residence here. But what we are seeing at the moment is a sudden and arbitrary crackdown prompted by a moral panic, and such situations rarely give rise to fair and effective process.

“We are also concerned that overly stringent scrutiny of visitor’s visas could act against New Zealand’s best interests. Tourism is a vital part of our economy and it will be seriously undermined if there are too many hassles or delays for tourists applying to come here.

“We don’t want to end up like America, where tourists are now staying away in droves because of delays and intrusive checks and the exclusion of such well-know people as Cat Stevens, Bernadette Devlin McAliskey and novelist Ian McEwan. The United States has also lost a lot of international conferences because there is no guarantee that intending participants can get visas in time,” said Mr Locke.