Wednesday, June 18, 2008

What the Immigration Service needs is honesty not more power

The Immigration Service is in the news again today, the latest allegations of corners cut when considering applications because of stand over tactics by NZIS management. This is hard on the heals of scandals around former Service Head Mary Anne Thompson.

Some seem to suggest that the answer to nepotism and corruption is to give the Immigration Service more powers and greater secrecy! Only 9 MPs voted against the recent introduction of the Immigration Bill. This bill includes greater powers of search, entry, and detention. Immigration officials will be able to detain people without warrant for up to 4 hours, and, without a warrant of commitment, for up to 96 hours.

Alongside this is the use of secret evidence such as all sorts of gossip and hearsay, without the poor refugee even knowing what its about. This is not natural justice.

In the Lie in Unison affair, the Ombudsman Mr Smith couldn't get the truth and he wanted a review into processes for handling requests for official information under the Official Information Act. This obviously hasn't been addressed.

The Immigration Service has failed to demonstrate its impartiality in even the most routine matters. With these powers its only a matter of time before things go seriously wrong.

What Immigrants and Refugees need is more honesty from government. The Alliance policy on refugees rejects mandatory detention, protects the rights of refugees, and will promote resettlement programmes for migrants.

This week I have been enrolling migrants to vote, with some success. One person didn't know how to enroll to vote even after several years in NZ. Many are struggling to learn English with the assistance of programmes such as ESOL home tutors, of which I am a volunteer tutor.

The Immigration Service should be an agency to assist people with these things, co-ordinating the services of relevant state agencies and community bodies. Instead it is becoming an alienating institution to our immigrants.

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