Fair and Fast Asylum Decisions

  • Max Bradford

Immigration Minister Max Bradford today announced new streamlined procedures for people seeking asylum in New Zealand.

"The new procedures - which apply from tomorrow (30 April) - will give certainty to genuine asylum seekers through a prompt, fair system, and make it less open to exploitation and abuse," he said.

"The number of people seeking asylum in New Zealand has increased 300 per cent over the past three years. About two-thirds of the claims are found not to be genuine, yet claimants have been able to spend years in New Zealand clogging the processing system and claiming social welfare benefits."

He said that under the changes, asylum cases which appear to be without solid foundation may be decided by the Immigration Service"s Refugee Status Branch on the papers presented and without a personal interview.

Applicants declined refugee status may appeal to the independent Refugee Status Appeals Authority, and if not previously interviewed, must be offered the opportunity of an interview.

"Specific cases, such as where the claimant is being held in custody, may also be dealt with as a matter of urgency rather than having to take their turn in the queue," Mr Bradford said.

The new procedures also include a reduction in the time claimants have to lodge an appeal against Refugee Status Appeal Authority decisions, he said.

For the vast majority of claimants this will mean appeals can be lodged up to 10 working days after a decision by the Refugee Status Branch. For the small number of claimants who are in custody at the time, the appeal period will be five working days.

Applications lodged with the Refugee Status Branch before 30 April will be determined under the old process. Appeals arising from decisions on these cases made after 30 April will be dealt with under the new process.

"The streamlined refugee status decision process and the more efficient appeals system will make the entire process faster," Mr Bradford said.

"This means that people who genuinely can"t return to their home country because of persecution by their own authorities will be able to get on with their lives in New Zealand.

"It also means the faster removal of people who abuse New Zealand's humanitarian approach and goodwill towards assisting refugees."

Mr Bradford said the changes achieved two more of the objectives announced in last December"s package of measures to create certainty in long-term immigration policy, and to provide economic and social benefits for New Zealand.

Further steps in implementing the Coalition Government's immigration policy package are expected to be announced in due course.