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Entertainers attack NZ boat people law

DANYA LEVY
Last updated 10:13 06/09/2012

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Comedians, actors, singers and writers have joined forces in a new video clip urging the Government to dump its controversial plans to lock up potentially illegal migrants - or "boat people".

The Immigration Amendment Bill is currently before Parliament and would allow the Government to detain for up to six months any asylum seekers who arrive as part of a "mass arrival" of more than 10 people.

Depending on their risk, they would be detained at a correctional facility, army base or at the refugee centre in Mangere.

It has been strongly opposed by Labour and the Greens who say it is unnecessary because boat people have never reached New Zealand and are unlikely to because of treacherous waters surrounding the country.

They also claim it breaches basic human rights.

Only one of 44 submissions to a select committee considering the bill supported it.

Tracey Barnett, an American journalist living in Auckland, has put together a You Tube clip featuring high-profile New Zealanders expressing their concerns about the proposed law.

In it, singer Dave Dave Dobbyn describes legislating against something that has never happened as "crazy".

Comedian Jeremy Elwood questions detaining vulnerable men, woman and children and fellow comedian Michele A'Court points out New Zealand has always allowed asylum seekers to wait in the community while their applications for refugee status are processed.

Art commentator Hamish Keith says Australia has had problems with detention centres such as suicides and depression: "They're not criminals".

Writer and actor Oscar Kightley says: "I hate it when they try to make someone else's pain political."

Barnett today said she felt compelled to put the video together because New Zealanders were unaware what the Government was planning.

Getting celebrities to take part was "incredibly easy". "People are kind and people are fair."

Labour's immigration spokeswoman Darien Fenton said it was encouraging that high profile people were concerned.

"It's really good to see that it is not flying under the radar as I think the Government hoped it would do."

Fairfax Media last month revealed former National immigration minister Aussie Malcolm had also urged the Government to scrap the bill, warning New Zealand was headed down a dangerous path.

The issue of asylum seekers has become a political football in Australian where its government has faced riots in its detention centres and boat people dying after the sinking of their ships.

Immigration Minister Nathan Guy has said he was happy with the legislation and not prepared to change it because New Zealand shouldn't be seen as a "soft touch".

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Watch the video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=18rX4Z_OkBY

- Stuff

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