Submission:Immigration (Mass Arrivals) Amendment Bill

The full text of our submission to the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee recommending rejection of the Immigration (Mass Arrivals) Amendment Bill.

About the New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties

  1. The New Zealand Council for Civil Liberties (‘the Council’) is a voluntary, not-for-profit organisation which advocates to promote human rights and maintain civil liberties.
  1. We wish to make an oral submission to the Committee.


  1. Seeking refuge is a human right. 
  1. This bill discriminates against asylum seekers who associate with one another. It is unconscionable to imprison people seeking refuge for nothing more than associating with other people with similar needs.
  1. The Council calls for the Committee to reject this bill.
  1. Further the Council calls on the Committee to instruct the Ministry to prepare a bill to amend the Immigration Act 2009 (the principal act) to bring it in line with our international commitments.

Seeking refuge is a human right

  1. Our right to seek asylum from persecution in other countries is recognised by Article 14 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), to which Aotearoa New Zealand is a signatory.
  1. Our right is further recognised by article 31(2) of the 1951 Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees (the 1951 Convention):

The Contracting States shall not apply to the movements of such refugees restrictions other than those which are necessary and such restrictions shall only be applied until their status in the country is regularized or they obtain admission into another country. 

The principal act fails to uphold our rights

  1. The Attorney General’s New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 (NZBORA) Compliance Report (NZBORA Report) argues that as the amendments are minor and technical in nature, that the bill complies with NZBORA as the Principal Act was deemed compliant.1A repeated claim, see paragraph 30 for one example.  The Council agrees with the logic, but draws the opposite conclusion: that neither the bill nor the principal act are compliant with NZBORA. We now address the principal act’s main failures in the order in which they appear.
  1. Articles 25 and 27 of the 1951 convention bind us to not only not punish people seeking refuge for any failure to provide documents, but also obliges us to provide replacement documents. Section 317(2)(d) contradicts our commitments by punishing people seeking refuge for lacking official documents. 
  1. Travelling in a group is a natural and healthy behaviour for people. Section 317A provides powers to imprison people seeking refuge for no reason other than their arrival is inconvenient to immigration officers.  Officers who are employed specifically to assist people seeking refuge.  s371A(1)(a) is repugnant to natural justice.


The Council recommends removing (i, iii, and iv) from section 317A(1)(a), so that if we are imprisoning people, we are at least doing it for a reason which makes sense.


  1. The Council believes arresting people seeking refuge to be immoral.
  1. Article 26 of the 1951 Convention guarantees the freedom of movement of people seeking refuge. Further article 8 of the 1951 Convention guarantees that we will not regulate people seeking refuge more harshly than we regulate ourselves.
  1. The bill continues the principal act’s regime of arresting and detaining people seeking refuge. The Council agrees that seeking refuge should not grant immunity from arrest on legitimate grounds, however seeking refuge should not be grounds for detention.
  1. Regardless of the legality of the proposed measures, the alternatives to detention in section 315 are unreasonable and clearly violate our international commitments.  However, they are preferable to imprisonment under the bill.

 Access to Justice

  1. Part 2 of the bill does nothing except increase the number of days people can be held before their cases are heard by a judge from 96 hours in the principal act, to 28 days and 96 hours.  As such, this bill is yet another Ministry acknowledging that the speeds for conducting business in the courts which seemed reasonable only a decade ago are no longer achievable.
  1. The correct action for government is to make the courts quicker.  There are many ways to accomplish this, the crudest of which is to increase funding. 

Attorney General’s Bill of Rights Act Compliance Report

  1. The Council notes that the NZBORA report was performed on a draft, not the current bill. The Council recommends that the Committee ask the Attorney General to update their report before the Committee prepares its report.
  1. The Council also notes a novel dysfunction in Parliamentary process: the NZBORA report is dated Dec 1, 2022.  However, it was not made available until April 3, after first reading which occurred on March 29.  How Parliament expects to function if it hides the information which it needs to operate from itself is a mystery to the Council.

A better future

  1. The Council believes that an entirely different set of reforms should be undertaken in our programmes for people seeking refuge. 
  1. The Council is dubious of the concept of a refugee quota.  If such a concept is to exist, it ought to be a floor not a ceiling.  Aotearoa New Zealand has consistently failed to fill our quota.  That unused capacity ought to automatically be carried forward, increasing the current quota.  Further, the Council supports enlarging the quota.
  1. There is no shortage of people seeking refuge in our times. The problem which the bill seeks to address fundamentally results from our failure to fulfil our obligation to go to the people in need and bring them to our refuge.  Our failure to fill our refugee quota stems from the same source.  We should put more effort into bringing people seeking refuge to our shores.
  1. Finally, when people seeking refuge arrive here, we owe it to ourselves to support them as best we can, for the sake of strengthening our communities. The Council notes with disapproval that the current approach focuses on minimising cost, not on maximising benefits.