Refugee legislation an affront to High Court

Green Party Immigration spokesperson Keith Locke is asking the government not to proceed this week with refugee legislation that he says would prejudge a case currently before the High Court.

“It would be an affront to Justice Baragwanath, who has just given an interim ruling that the government’s routine detention of asylum seekers violates the 1951 Refugee Convention,” said Mr Locke.

“Parliament should not blithely proceed as if the High Court was not involved.

“The new legislation assumes that Section 128 of the Immigration Act, allowing for detention, can still be used against asylum seekers, when the High Court has said it should not.

“The government’s amendments aim to entrench the ‘Australian’ approach of routine detention of asylum seekers, sugar-coating it with a provision for ‘conditional release.’

“I have written to Justice Minister Phil Goff asking that Clauses 24-26, the ones relating to asylum seekers, be taken out of the Transnational Organised Crime Bill prior to it coming back to the House this week.

“Parliament should await Justice Baragwanath’s final judgement before considering any new asylum seeker laws,” Mr Locke said.

“Now that the anti-terrorist hysteria which followed September 11 is fading, the government should adopt a more reasonable approach to detention, in line with the Refugee Convention.

“There is no need to detain any asylum seeker unless he or she has a serious criminal history and really is a threat to New Zealand. In most cases we are dealing with people who have already suffered in their home country. We should not add to their trauma by taking away their freedom here,” said Mr Locke.