Release asylum seekers now!

Green Party Immigration spokesperson Keith Locke has called for the immediate release of detained asylum seekers, following a High Court decision that most of them are illegally held.

“The government must obey the law,” said Mr Locke.

“There are around 20 asylum seekers currently detained in Auckland Central Remand Prison and the Mangere detention centre.

“These should be immediately released unless, as Judge Baragwanath has ruled, there is a ‘real risk’ of them absconding or offending.

“The government must stop breaching the 1951 Refugee Convention which forbids the routine detention of asylum seekers.

“Those detained since September 11 have commonly been found to be genuine asylum seekers. This year (to May 30) 25 of them have been given refugee status, and 16 have had their applications declined.

“This means that people who have been the victims of persecution in their home countries have had insult added to their injury, being subjected to weeks of detention here.

“We are destroying our reputation as a compassionate country by routinely detaining asylum seekers,” said Keith Locke.

“In the light of Judge Baragwanath’s decision, I hope Labour, in the new Parliament, will revisit the amendment to the Immigration Act that I moved in the committee stages of the Transnational Organised Crime Bill earlier this month.

“This amendment said that asylum seekers could only be detained under Section 128 ‘to avoid a real risk of criminal offending’ or a ‘real risk of absconding’. Labour voted against this amendment.

“The new procedures for ‘conditional release’ introduced under the bill do not cancel out the High Court decision that asylum seekers should not be imprisoned in the first place,” said Mr Locke.