RefNZ News

Recent Developments in NZ Refugee Law

Last updated: 13 April 2010

RefNZ News provides a chronological summary of noteworthy news and developments in refugee law.  The focus is primarily on New Zealand, but significant judgments from overseas Courts will also be noted.  Use the Index below to link to summaries of interest.

The Index below contains 2010 News items.
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9 April 2010  Australia suspends all new asylum claims by people from Sri Lanka and Afghanistan

7 April 2010  Court of Appeal decision addressing sentencing factors in identity fraud cases added to Case Search page of this website

29 March 2010  NZLS to establish Immigration and Refugee Law Committee

16 March 2010  Two Court decisions added to Case Search page of this website

12 March 2010  New Zealand's Fifth Periodic Report to be presented to UN Human Rights Committee

10 March 2010  Supreme Court grants leave to appeal in relation to Court of Appeal ruling that Tamil from Sri Lanka not excluded from Refugee Convention

4 February 2010  Foreign Minister denies backflip on Sri Lankans from Oceanic Viking

1 February 2010  Aleinikoff becomes UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees

20 January 2010  Thirteen Sri Lankans from Oceanic Viking provisionally accepted by New Zealand

9 April 2010 The Federal Minister of Immigration, Chris Evans, has announced the immediate suspension of all new asylum claims by people from Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. He is reported as saying that the decision had been made "in the light of changing circumstances" in those countries. He added that the move would "send a strong message to people-smugglers". Amnesty International is reported as saying that the decision was "an appalling political move". The BBC reports that a recent increase in the number of asylum-seekers arriving by boat has put pressure on the Australian government. More than 100 boats carrying asylum-seekers have been intercepted by the Australian Navy since the current government came to power in 2007. The government says it will review the situation for Sri Lankans after three months, and for Afghans after six.

[BBC, "Australia suspends asylum claims", 9 April 2010]

7 April 2010
The Court of Appeal decision in R v Vhavha [2009] NZCA 588 has been added to Case Search page of this website. The judgment
addresses the question whether sentences in the immigration and passport fraud area should appropriately reflect deterrence and denunciation. The primary issue in the appeal was whether home detention should have been granted to a Zimbabwe national who, on pleading guilty to eleven charges of immigration fraud, was sentenced to eighteen months imprisonment.

29 March 2010
The New Zealand Law Society has established an Immigration and Refugee Law Committee. If you are interested in becoming a member (or the convener) apply online at Role descriptions for committee members and the convener are also online. Applications close on 15 April 2010.

[NZLS, LawTalk 747 (29 March 2010) front page]

16 March 2010 Two Court decisions from 2009 have been added to the Case Search page of this website. A brief description of each case follows:

MA v Attorney-General (No. 2) (CA) - Confidentiality - Use of documents seized by Police - Whether may be used in refugee cancellation proceedings

Aziz v Chief Executive of the Ministry of Social Development - Social security - Emergency benefit - Eligibility depending on whether person lawfully present in New Zealand - Meaning of lawfully present - New Zealand Bill of Rights Act s 9 - Whether denial of an emergency social welfare benefit might contravene the prohibition on torture or cruel, degrading or disproportionately severe treatment or punishment where the individual would otherwise be utterly destitute

12 March 2010 On 16 and 17 March 2010 New Zealand will present its Fifth Periodic Report to the UN Human Rights Committee.

[Simon Power, "Minister to present report to UN Human Rights Committee", Media Statement, 12 March 2010]

10 March 2010 The Supreme Court has granted leave to appeal in relation to the decision of the Court of Appeal in X v Refugee Status Appeals Authority [2009] NZCA 488 (20 October 2009). The approved ground is whether the Court of Appeal erred as to the proper approach to the application of Article 1F(a) and (b) of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.

[Attorney-General (Minister of Immigration) v X [2010] NZSC 19 (10 March 2010)]

4 February 2010
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr McCully, is reported as saying that New Zealand has not performed a backflip on the issue of accepting asylum-seekers from the Australian Customs vessel Oceanic Viking. New Zealand's position has always been that this is a serious problem that needs to be dealt with through a multilateral process. The UNHCR manages that process and in relation to the Oceanic Viking they had tendered some individuals through that process. New Zealand had a refugee quota and the Sri Lankans would form part of that quota. He also warned, after meeting his Australian counterpart, that New Zealand had become a target for people-smugglers.

[Greg Ansley, "NZ 'target for people smugglers'", NZ Herald, Thursday, February 4, 2010, p A4]

1 February 2010
T Alexander Aleinikoff, previously Dean of the law school at Georgetown University in the United States has today assumed the duties of the United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees. He had been Executive Vice President of Georgetown University and dean of the Georgetown University Law Center since 2005 and Professor of Law at Georgetown since 1997. He is an expert in refugee, immigration and citizenship law and policy.

[UNHCR Communications Service, "T Alexander Aleinikoff becomes UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees", Press Release, Monday 1 February 2010]

20 January 2010
The Prime Minister, John Key, has announced that after talks with the UNHCR and with the Prime Minister of Australia, New Zealand will take thirteen Sri Lankan refugees rescued at sea by the Australian customs vessel Oceanic Viking in October and who, on being taken to Indonesia, refused to disembark from the vessel. Although the thirteen have been found to be genuine refugees by the UNHCR, Mr Key says that they will still have to meet New Zealand's security clearance criteria. The Prime Minister has also warned that New Zealand is at risk of being a target for "boat people", disclosing that last year there was an attempted voyage to New Zealand by a boat but those on board ended up in Australia instead.

New Zealand had earlier refused to take any of the asylum-seekers from the Oceanic Viking, saying it did not want to reward people who jumped the queue. It is also reported that all nations initially rejected Australia's request to take people from the Oceanic Viking. Now twenty-eight will go to the USA, thirteen to Canada, thirteen to New Zealand, three to Norway and the remainder to Australia. Twelve of the asylum-seekers have already been resettled in Australia, while four have failed security checks and will remain on Christmas Island.
A spokeswoman for the Minister of Immigration, Jonathan Coleman, is reported as saying that the Government supported a multilateral approach to people-smuggling and boat people.

[Isaac Davison and Claire Trevett, "NZ gives 13 Sri Lankan asylum seekers a home", NZ Herald, Wednesday, 20 January 2010, p A4]

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