Boat People Laws

Claire Trevett at NZ Herald reports:

Prime Minister John Key says there is an increasing risk that boat people will make it to New Zealand’s shores and new changes to the law are needed to deter people smugglers and cope with a possible mass arrival of asylum seekers.

And the changes:

  • will apply to illegal immigrants who arrive in a group of 11 or more.
  • will be detained under a group warrant, rather than individual warrants.
  • if accepted as refugees, will not get residency for at least three years after their status is reviewed.
  • will only be able to sponsor immediate family members to NZ, not extended family such as adult siblings or parents.

A key thing to understand is the difference between genuine refugees and what might be called economic refugees.

A genuine refugee is a person who flees a country because they face persecution “on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or because they are a member of a persecuted ‘social group’.” A Jew fleeing Nazi Europe is one example. A political dissident from China could be another.

“Economic refugees” or “Economic migrants” are those who seek to move to another country because it has a higher standard of living. Their motivation is quite understandable – your family are likely to have a much better life in Australia or New Zealand than in say Indonesia.

However NZ and Australia do not have open borders. They have criteria for immigration based on education, skills, wealth, age etc. Allowing anyone who can make the journey over to stay, undermines that. Hence when “boat people” turn up, they are often detained until it is clarified that they are legitimate refugees, or “economic refugees”. It is not particularly nice to do such a thing, but the reality is that if not detained, then it may be very difficult to locate them again if they are meant to be deported.

We have been fortunate not to have had a significant issue to date, but I think it is inevitable we will have a fairly large boat or two arrive at some stage.

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