The September 11 attacks were used as cover to pass draconian laws around the world, particularly concerning immigration. The Government is, once again, following suit with the new Immigration Bill. It’s a shockingly bad piece of legislation that gives broad powers to immigration and other government officials (read SIS), removes judicial oversight, and allows personal information on a wide range of people, including New Zealand citizens, to be shared with foreign intelligence services. Both Labour and National support the Bill at present, although Labour members are said to be very unhappy with it. The Greens and Maori party oppose it, as should all New Zealanders.
Insanely, many of the provisions in the Bill seem to be directed at ensuring that, in a repeat of the Ahmed Zaoui case, the Crown would be successful in having the refugee applicant branded a security risk and deported. That’s Ahmed Zaoui, the supposed terrorist who languished in Mt Eden for years and, now he is free(ish), spends his time writing poetry and giving lectures on human rights. The Crown had it completely wrong in Zaoui’s case, he isn’t a security threat and never was, but it took years of delay and obstruction of the judicial system by the SIS for justice to be done. The lesson should have been that the SIS was too paranoid and incapable of admitting error. Instead, this Bills wants to re-design the system so that the SIS and other agencies can’t be called into question.
Gordon Campbell rips apart the Bill in detail here and here better than I could, so I’ll limit myself to one clause of personal interest. Clause 9 of the Bill provides that entry to New Zealand may not be permitted for anyone who has been denied entry to or deported from another country. Essentially, the clause says we should give up our sovereign right to decide who should enter our country and instead give that decision to any country (any country eg Saudi Arabia, Russia, Cuba) who has denied that person entry for whatever reason, regardless of whether that reason is relevant or just in New Zealand. Now, the consequences for refugees from third world countries are obvious and dire but some of our readers have trouble empathising with poor, dark-skinned foreigners – so let’s take an example of nice middle-class white people, just like you, instead. My former partner is Estonian. She was once denied entry to Sweden due to a misunderstanding over transit visas. Half a year later, she came out here on a working visa under the family stream she worked here for one and a half years. Had this new law been in place, we would have been denied the opportunity to be together and New Zealand would have lost the use of a skilled worker, simply because a Swedish immigration officer stuffed up. That’s exactly the kind of unintended consequence that flows from reactionary laws.
This Bill gives unnecessary powers to government officials and actively bars proper judicial checks on the exercise of those powers. Looking at Parliament’s order paper, there will not be time to pass the Bill in the current Parliament. Whoever wins the election, let’s hope the next Parliament has the wisdom to drop this dangerous legislation.