New Zealand’s immigration laws are “totally inadequately enforced” and “unjustified” the chief executive of the NZ Immigration Council (NZIC), which administers the country’s immigration system, said on Wednesday.
The NZIC’s chairman, Mike Gee, also warned that the Government was making mistakes with the introduction of the controversial new Immigration and Multiculturalism Act (IMMA) in April.
“It’s not good enough for the government to say they’ve been very good at enforcing the legislation and it’s been a great success.
We’ve seen a huge surge in immigration, and we’re seeing more than doubling in the last three years,” Mr Gee told the Auckland International Festival.”
It seems to be an important piece of legislation.
I think there is a sense of urgency to get it implemented.”
The new legislation allows police to ask for a warrant to enter an immigration detention facility.
It allows Immigration New Zealand to suspend or revoke a visa if the person is suspected of being a security risk.
Mr Gee said there was a lack of clear guidelines around how long a person could be detained without a warrant.
New Zealand was among countries that introduced the IMMA, but there has been no significant uptake in the numbers of people entering detention centres.
“What we’ve seen is the IMA has caused a massive increase in the number of people being held in immigration detention centres and that has created a real situation where we’re not getting the maximum benefit of our immigration system,” he said.
Mr Fyfe said the IMCA was a “very complicated and difficult piece of law”.
“I think we’re going to need to look at it again,” he told the festival.
The NZ Immigration Department said the new legislation was not yet in place, and there was “no estimate” of how many detainees would be in immigration centres under the new law.
Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse said the Government would continue to review the IMLA, but the Government’s focus was on reducing immigration to the US and improving the welfare of New Zealanders.
“The focus is on reducing the numbers that are being taken into immigration detention,” he was quoted as saying by the ABC.
New Zealanders make up around 10 per cent of the US’s total population.
Last month, Immigration Minister Michael Penney said he would ask Immigration New England to review IMMA.
Immigration NZ chief executive Mike Gree said there were “some serious issues” with the new IMMA and the “vast majority” of detainees would not be placed under the law.
“In some circumstances it may be that people who are in a detention facility for long periods of time will be held under IMMA,” he wrote in a blog post.
“However, in all other circumstances, IMMA will not apply to them.”
Immigration New Zealand said the bill was designed to make it easier for immigration officers to ask people for a visa and to remove them from detention if they did not have one.
“We’re pleased the bill has now been passed, but it’s important to note the IMTA is still only a pilot, and will need to be implemented by all other immigration authorities, including the New Zealand Government,” it said.
Mr Gree urged New Zealand voters to oppose the legislation, saying it would create a “permanent and unmitigated problem” for New Zealand citizens.