Speech to people smuggling conference - BaliImmigration
Joint Lead Speaker
Ministerial Dialogue - Theme 3
Hon Co-Chairs, Excellencies, distinguished guests, I join with my colleague in welcoming this regional conference and New Zealand congratulates Indonesia and Australia for the initiative.
I thank too, the Philippines for a graphic introduction to the themes of this dialogue. I have heard Maria’s story more than once, tragically even in New Zealand. It brings us back to the victims of trafficking and smuggling. ‘Victims’ is the correct word as those who traffick or smuggle have no interest in the results or what happens to the people in the end. They are only interested in the money they can extort.
Each country represented here today brings a different perspective: Countries of origin, countries of first asylum, transit countries, destination or receiving countries, but we all have a role to play.
New Zealand is a destination country, but due to our geographic isolation, we have not been, to date, a preferred target of the people smugglers. This does not mean that New Zealand faces no risk nor, that we have no role to play in taking a hard line on people smugglers. As my colleague has advised, we have introduced legislation to our Parliament this week containing some of the harshest penalties known to our legal system, in order to deter those who would seek to make New Zealand a destination, and to meet our obligations under the UN Convention on Transnational Organised Crime.
We are also taking the opportunity to strengthen penalties for immigration offences, including a strict liability offence for employers employing people without a permit to do so.
New Zealand sees itself as playing its part in what must be a co-ordinated, comprehensive international strategy to combat those who I have described as the ‘traders in human misery’. The themes of this dialogue relate to:
·The humane treatment of the people who are smuggled
·The return and resettlement of people who travel illegally
·The legal protection needs of victims in accordance with international instruments
I think it is important to remember that there are at least four different categories of people smuggling ‘customers’ or ‘victims’:
·Asylum seekers entitled to claim the protection of the UN Convention on the Status of the Refugees.
·Asylum seekers who are not so entitled
·Economic migrants who wish to circumvent the immigration laws of receiving countries, because they do not qualify under any of the accepted immigration streams;
·Victims of deception.
The three themes of this dialogue (which I outlined earlier) encompass all the categories of this ‘consumer base’ for the people smugglers and traffickers.
New Zealand’s response to the humane treatment of the people who are smuggled ties in very much with the repatriation and protection themes. New Zealand has taken action over the past two years to improve the efficiency of its refugee status determination process. We believe that the sooner that we can determine those who are not entitled to protection or who are abusing the determination process in order to circumvent our immigration laws, the sooner we can remove them. In New Zealand last year, this represented over 80 per cent of those who claimed refugee status.
Conversely, the sooner that we determine that a claim is genuine, the sooner we can commence the resettlement process. We have found that lengthy delays in the determination process, add to the anxiety that inhibit integration into the community, once refugee status is granted. The longer that state of limbo applies, the more difficult it is for those with genuine claims to resettle.
However, for those without genuine claims, the difficulty we can experience is obtaining travel documents for the country of origin. Perhaps one of the discussion points for this dialogue ought to be the giving of impetus to developing bilateral or multilateral repatriation or readmission agreements.
Delegates have here, spoken of the deterrent of such agreements, but there is also significant benefit in developing public confidence in the determination process.
Considering the themes of this dialogue in the context of being the ‘victims’ of people smugglers requires us to consider why people smugglers have such a ready market. This has been dealt with in previous dialogues, but I do believe it is important to raise it in the context of the humane treatment of the people smuggled.
If there were a timely and orderly resettlement process producing results for those who are mandated by UNHCR in their country of first refuge, then the pressure to by-pass the official process would be reduced.
Perhaps there needs to be a reconsideration of the UN Convention on the Status of Refugees, which, after all, is now 50 years old, with the potential to develop a protocol that seeks to have early identification of those in need of in the country of first refuge, and specifically to limit secondary movements by limiting claims outside those countries to the period of flight.
This could of course, add to the burden of countries of first refuge, and would require a greater international commitment to burden-sharing than exists today. This is something this region could encourage.
With respect to protection of genuine asylum seekers granted refugee status in receiving countries, then the challenge to us, I believe, is to ask whether the burden must be fully carried by the country of destination. One of the issues we should discuss, is whether there ought to be a regional burden-sharing solution to those granted status in either a transit, or a destination country. This requires us to have a consistent application of the Convention across countries and confidence in each other’s processes, as well as a consistent approach to the people smuggling rackets, in order to prevent the obvious risk of new destinations being sought in order to avoid penalties.
Finally, New Zealand believes the importance of this conference cannot be over-stated and we commit to playing our role in what must be a co-ordinated strategy, which would involve:
·Picking up on an earlier contribution from the IOM, a stock-take of the work of the wide range of international and regional organisations that operate in this area of irregular migration and transnational organised crime, in order to develop a focus on the themes of this conference and meaningful co-ordination of activity between these agencies;
·A commitment to the development of multilateral or bilateral repatriation or return agreements;
·A commitment to fair, consistent and timely refugee status determination processes, with experienced countries assisting others with capacity building needs;
·Following on from the Philippines, co-ordinated advertising in the region to warn of the dangers of deception, which women and children in particular face;
·A consideration of the Protocol to the UN Convention on the Status of Refugees limiting secondary movements; and
·Increasing burden-sharing to alleviate not only the pressure on countries of first refuge, but also transit and destination countries.
Thank you once more for the opportunity to contribute to this dialogue. New Zealand is committed to action to support the themes of this dialogue.
We again congratulate Indonesia and Australia for this vital initiative.