October 31 2014, updated 10:50pm

Immigration Act to drop 'Zaoui' law

Last updated 00:00 08/08/2007

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A wide sweeping rewrite of immigration law will overhaul the controversial regime used to try to deport Ahmed Zaoui.

Immigration Minister David Cunliffe said the new law would streamline the process to remove illegal immigrants and make it easier for desirable migrants to enter New Zealand.

The overhaul of the 1987 Act also modernises the law to keep up with modern technology.

This includes the collection of biometric information, which Mr Cunliffe said would be limited to taking photos of New Zealanders at the border to verify their identity.

The rewrite also completely repeals the controversial part of the legislation used to detain Mr Zaoui when he arrived in New Zealand in December 2002 and sought refugee status.

The SIS issued a security risk certificate which triggered efforts to deport Mr Zaoui.

Mr Zaoui fought the attempt saying he would be tortured or killed if he went back to Algeria, and spent almost two years in prison waiting for his case to be decided as he fought the security risk certificate.

He was declared a genuine refugee in August 2003 by the Refugee Status Appeals Authority and released on bail in December 2004 since when he has lived with the Catholic community in Auckland in the Dominican Priory.

The judicial review of the certificate is still going on with some complaining the process is unfair because Mr Zaoui does not know the exact nature of the allegations against him.

Under the new system immigration officials would still be able to use classified information to remove unwanted would-be immigrants, but they would be entitled to a "non-classified summary" of the allegations "where possible".

It also extends the type and source of classified information that could be used against a person – for instance from police and other government agencies.

Mr Zaoui is the only person to have come into the net of the current law and Mr Cunliffe said he now expected two or three a year to be covered by the new law.

The new law would allow such cases to be dealt with more quickly, but would not be retrospective to cover Mr Zaoui.

Deportation procedures which allow for multiple appeals to different bodies will be streamlined with the creation of one body – the Immigration and Protection Tribunal.

Mr Cunliffe said it was the biggest rewrite of immigration law in two decades.

"Changes in this bill will clarify and strengthen border security, tighten the law against those who pose a risk to New Zealand's well-being and facilitate the entry of those migrants we want."

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The Immigration Bill would also:

  • Simplify the visa system;

  • Overhaul detention powers;

  • Give some customs officials the power to search and detain people without a warrant for 96 hours;

  • Bring New Zealand into line with international conventions and treaties;

  • Allow for more information sharing between Immigration and other departments.

    Mr Cunliffe said he had indications from National that they would be supporting the bill.

    Prime Minister Helen Clark said the laws around the issuing of security certificates had needed changing.

    "It's clearly proved to be pretty unworkable in practise leading to prolonged litigation and procedural wrangles," Miss Clark said.

    "The hope is that with this major new rewrite of the Immigration Act we can get some better procedures."

    New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters, who has long called for Mr Zaoui to be detained, said he supported the legislation even though it did not go far enough.

    Mr Peters said immigration officials should be split out of the Department of Labour because if its poor record in the area.

    - NZPA

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