WelCom News
A newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North Catholic Dioceses

Sympathy for the genuine asylum seeker


Ethne Wyndham-Smith
3 September 2012

The proposed toughening of immigration law was a key focus for the Catholic Women’s League’s national conference in New Plymouth in July.

League members heard that some of the proposed changes include the mandatory detention of groups of 11 or more illegal immigrants for an initial period of six months followed by renewable 28-day periods, detaining children with parents, delaying consideration of permanent residence for three years after refugee status is recognised, restricting access to judicial review and permanently restricting family reunification to spouses and children.

Delegates at the July 11-14 conference expressed concern at the proposed amendments.
Refugees find it difficult to settle happily without family, especially when they know that members are suffering elsewhere. Their only living relative might be a sister, uncle or grandparent.

Volunteers, rather than the government, pay thousands of dollars to help reunite families.
The government hopes to deter boatloads of what they term ‘illegal immigrants’. But these desperate people are asylum seekers who risk their lives to reach a place of sanctuary.
In the UN Declaration of Human Rights 1948, ‘Everyone has the right to seek and enjoy asylum in another country from persecution in their homeland.’

New Zealand is also a signatory to the Refugee Convention, 1951.

Mandatory detention is deeply destructive of human dignity and costly in social and financial terms. Detention on Nauru is reported to have cost the Australian government $1 million monthly.

We must have sympathy for genuine asylum seekers, many of whom are women and children.

This government is attracting international attention to its refugee policies for the wrong reasons.

Formal submissions to the Immigration Amendment Bill closed on June 8. The select committee is due to report back to Parliament on September 10. But the League encourages members and others to continue to write to the Minister of Immigration, Nathan Guy and to David Bennett who chairs the Transport/Industrial Relations Select Committee.