Govt criticised for proposal to increase detention time for asylum seekers

Asylum seekers file image.

The Government has announced it will increase the detention time for asylum seekers arriving on New Zealand shores en masse to 28 days under a proposal that's been criticised as a setback for human rights.

The current detention time allowed is up to four days.

New Zealand has never had a mass arrival of asylum seeker boats, but there have been attempts. In 2019, a fishing trawler with more than 200 Tamil refugees on board reportedly tried to reach Australia and New Zealand but went missing.

Immigration Minister Michael Wood said the risk for New Zealand is low, but the current law is not fit for purpose and needs to change.

Michael Wood.

He said extending the detention period gives asylum seekers more time to access lawyers while their risk is assessed.

"This is a low-likelihood event, but it is a potentially high-impact one. So it makes sense we have a toolkit that is ready to deal with the situation," Wood said.

But the Green Party's refugee spokesperson Golriz Ghahraman said the proposal is a suspension of human rights.

Green MP Golriz Ghahraman speaking to media.

"The legislation is especially upsetting because it is unnecessary.

"We are not facing large numbers of boats carrying asylum seekers entering New Zealand waters. It is a conscious political choice to go down this route for no reason, and goes against who we are," she said.

Asylum seekers could be detained at places like hotels or the Māngere resettlement centre, but the Government is not ruling out using prisons when "absolutely necessary".

Amnesty International said it's concerned the move undermines human rights.

The organisation's campaigns director Lisa Woods told 1News that she's yet to see adequate evidence the change is necessary.

People will be able to have their say on the bill when it's considered at select committee later this year.


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