Government improves mass arrival management

  • Hon Erica Stanford

The Government has strengthened settings for managing a mass arrival, with the passing of the Immigration (Mass Arrivals) Amendment Bill today.

“While we haven’t experienced a mass arrival event in New Zealand, it is an ongoing possibility which would have a significant impact on our immigration and court systems,” Immigration Minister Erica Stanford says.

“This Bill ensures we are better equipped to manage a mass arrival event, uphold the human rights of asylum seekers and protect the resilience of our critical courts and immigration infrastructure.

“Previously judges had just 96 hours to decide on warrants of commitment, which enable the detention of migrants to process applications. This did not allow enough time for the migrant to gain legal representation. We have provided more time for this decision, upholding the right to natural justice while protecting New Zealanders’ safety and security.

“The legislation makes it clear a member of a mass arrival group cannot be detained in a prison or police station prior to a warrant of commitment being issued. It also provides that, in seeking a group warrant of commitment, an Immigration Officer must explain why the proposed detention is needed, and how it is the least restrictive and for the shortest time necessary to achieve its aims.

“Further, the application must outline how the location of detention meets our obligations under the Bill of Rights Act 1990, as well as the 1951 Refugee Convention and our other international obligations, such as the UNHCR 2012 Guidelines on Detention.

“During the consultation process it was clear a number of submitters mistakenly believed the changes would enable New Zealand to breach our international obligations or the human rights of those involved. This was never the case.

“However, to provide certainty, this Bill puts in place explicit safeguards on how human rights will be upheld.

“The Bill closes the gaps identified in a 2019 review of the mass arrivals provisions of the Immigration Act 2009, ensuring we are prepared to respond to a potential mass arrival in a safe and secure way, and in a manner which preserves the human rights of vulnerable migrants.”

Media contact: Vikki Carter – +64 21 846 701

Notes to editors:

Summary of the changes – Immigration (Mass Arrivals) Amendment Bill

When Parliament passed the Immigration Amendment Act in 2013, it established a definition of a ‘mass arrival group’ and allowed for group ‘warrants of commitment’ to support the management of people arriving in a mass arrival. The amendment bill passed today will:

  • give the Courts more time to consider applications for mass arrival ‘warrants of commitment’ and extend the time a person can be detained without a warrant so they can obtain adequate legal representation for the application process;
  • make it clear that members of an irregular maritime arrival group need to apply for the relevant visa and for entry permission, and if they do not, they are to be treated as though they have applied; and
  • remove any possibility that members of an irregular maritime arrival group hold a visa on arrival.

New safeguards added while the Bill was before the House:

  • establish that, prior to a warrant of commitment being issued, a member of a mass arrival group may be detained in premises approved by the Chief Executive (under Section 330 of the Act), except in prison or a police station
  • require an Immigration Officer to establish, in making an application for a Group Warrant of Commitment:
    • why the proposed detention is necessary;
    • that the detention sought is for the least amount of time and is the least restrictive necessary to achieve the outcomes of detention;
    • how the proposed detention meets the Government’s obligations under the Bill of Rights Act; and
    • how the proposed detention meets New Zealand’s obligations under the 1951 Refugee Convention and our other international obligations;
  • require an Immigration Officer to report to the court weekly (unless varied by a judge) during a period of warrantless detention of a mass arrival group; and
  • allow a Judge to order that the location specified in an application for a Group Warrant of Commitment be varied on his or her own motion, or upon application by a party.

/Public Release. View in full here.