The Human Rights Commission has made a highly critical submission on the Immigration Bill in which, carefully-worded independent Crown agency that the HRC is, it also saw fit to use the expression 'kafkaesque'. The HRC also picked out for special criticism clause 9 (1) (f) -- the one discussed in my original post that makes removal, deportation or exclusions from [any] other country sufficient (or mandatory?) grounds for denial of entry to New Zealand.
There is also now an anti-Bill website, and an online petition against the Bill. Those who sign the petition are able to submit a comment with their signature.
-- original post --
The new Immigration Bill currently working its way through the New Zealand legislative process should be of grave concern to anyone who cares about civil liberties, according to two detailed articles by Gordon Campbell.
The Bill gives a frightening new range of powers to immigration officials (search, seizure and detention without warrants) and enshrines the use of secret information to make accusations against people who will have no guarantee of being able to see a summary of the evidence against them. It removes current judicial oversight of immigration proceedings. It also requires institutions, businesses and individuals (including employers or accommodation providers) to provide information on a 'suspect' and allows for this information to be provided to a broadly-defined range of overseas agencies. It provides for the compulsory collection of biometric information (including from New Zealand citizens) and fails to establish safeguards on its use.
As with other bloggers, one clause sets personal alarm bells ringing: 9 (1), which states that "no visa or entry permission may be granted, and no visa waiver may apply to any person [who]" has (a) ever been convicted of a crime punishable by at least 5 years; (b) been convicted of a crime punishable by at least 12 months in the last 10 years; or (f) "has at any time been removed, deported or excluded from another country".
One blog commenter suggested that this may just be badly drafted and that an immigration officer may -- at their discretion -- deny entry to someone deported, removed or excluded from another country, rather than denial of entry being mandatory for someone in this circumstance.
Even in this case, these conditions are draconian. Presumably 9 (1) (a) and (b) would include someone who has been a political prisoner in a state like China or Saudi Arabia. Should a human rights activist from Burma be denied entry to New Zealand because she was thrown in jail by the dictatorship?
Clause (9) (1) (f) is just crazy. In this supposedly globalised world, the nation state still carries a fair wack of arbitrary power over personal movement. The rights which citizens of many states take for granted evaporate once a border is crossed, and you can be deported, removed or excluded from a country without being anything like a criminal or badly-intentioned person. When I was in Mexico a few years ago I had the chance to chat to a guy who worked at the New Zealand embassy, who said that his colleagues at the Spanish and Italian embassies had had to process the deportations of about 100 of their citizens in the past year, who had annoyed the Mexican military by volunteering as human rights observers in Chiapas. It was with this in mind that I narrowly decided not to do the same thing myself.
As other bloggers point out, you can be refused entry to a country through a simple misunderstanding, or because some petty official doesn't like the cut of your gib. You don't have to go far to find stories of a respected British journalist detained, strip-searched and deported at LAX by paranoid US Immigration because there was an irregularity in her paperwork. Is it the intention to turn all such people away from New Zealand?
Both major parties are supporting the Bill (only the Greens and the Maori Party are likely to oppose it), so with no 'horse race'-style story available, our lamentable excuse for a mainstream media is ignoring the Bill altogether.
Campbell comments that internationally centre-left parties have been only too willing to stengthen the authoritarian reach of the state, and it has been the crusty conservatives in the British and US courts who have been the last bastion of traditional civil liberties. Unfortunately, as I've argued previously, the principles of the 'liberal' right tend to disappear in the political arena. Campbell says:
[I]n New Zealand, the centre right and its libertarian wing seem concerned merely with corporate freedom and property rights, and not with the civil rights of individuals. Thus, Act and National seem certain to applaud the extensions of state power the Bill contains, and will vote with the Government to pass them into law. Much as they may whine on about the nanny state, the centre right in New Zealand has always had a love affair with the authoritarian powers of the daddy state
So it will be down to a couple of minor parties, civil groups like the Law Society and concerned citizens to oppose this overrreaching legislation.