“When I went to the police station they took me to a cell and gave me a mattress. There were cockroaches crawling and biting me, I thought to myself this is similar to a police station in Afghanistan!”
It’s just after midnight at Auckland International Airport when Khalid, who we agreed not to name to protect his identity, arrived in late August 2012. He’d disposed of his passport during the final transit before reaching Auckland.
His eyes scan the arrivals area. He finds a policeman and declares he is here to seek asylum. “I was taken to Customs to be strip-searched. It was such a shock you know. Because of my religion, this is not something that I wanted to do,” he says. …
Immigration officers asked Khalid why he’d left Afghanistan, the route he’d taken to get to New Zealand and what had happened to his passport.
“At the end they said they’d let me know the outcome. I thought they’d let me go at this point but they told me they couldn’t let me walk around the streets.”
Khalid was told he’d be taken to prison.
“My expectation was when I provided some documents and told the truth I would be taken to a refugee camp but they sent me to the police station where I spent the night.”
Maybe he shouldn’t have destroyed his passport.
There’s conflict in Khalid’s voice as he explains why he used a false passport to leave Afghanistan.
“I had a UK visa, I could have gone there very easily. But the encouragement of my aunt who was already in New Zealand helped make my mind up. I didn’t want to be disloyal to the embassy because as an employee I didn’t want to misuse the visa they had given me.”
This is key. He had a visa to go to the UK.
Asylum in my opinion is not meant to be like normal migration, where you choose your desired country to go and live in. It is meant to be that if you flee across the border, you don’t get sent back to a country where you will be persecuted.
Information obtained through the Official Information Act revealed there are now 11 asylum seekers holed up in Mt Eden Prison; the average length of stay is four months.
According to Immigration New Zealand statistics there were 269 claims for asylum between 2016 and 2017; 71 of those claims were approved.
So around 20% of claims for asylum are found to be legitimate.