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UNHCR welcomes the recommendations of New Zealand's review into detention of asylum-seekers 

Position Papers

UNHCR welcomes the recommendations of New Zealand's review into detention of asylum-seekers 

4 May 2022
Position paper
UNHCR Representation in Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific
Position paper


This week’s decision of the New Zealand Government in accepting the recommendations arising from Immigration New Zealand's independent review into the detention of asylum-seekers is welcome news. 

The review, which was undertaken by Victoria Casey QC, examined the legislative framework governing the detention regime, practices and procedures, and the appropriateness of the use of police and corrections facilities to detain asylum-seekers.  

The review found that New Zealand’s immigration detention framework permitted the arbitrary and indefinite detention of asylum-seekers and the long-term detention of asylum-seekers in correctional facilities, which raised serious issues of non-compliance with New Zealand’s international and domestic human rights obligations.   

UNHCR welcomes the review’s recommendations for legislative change to bring New Zealand’s detention regime into conformity with international human rights and refugee law. Most notably, for the Immigration Act 2009 to recognize that the default position is liberty and that freedom should be restricted to the least degree and shortest duration possible. Moreover, that any thresholds and parameters allowing for detention and lesser restrictions on freedom of movement should comply with the 1951 Refugee Convention, the UNHCR Detention Guidelines and the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.  

We were pleased to see that the reviewer also recognized that alternatives to detention must be available and proactively considered, that safeguards are needed to address absolute discretionary decision-making, and that the establishment of a long-term civil detention facility is not warranted.    

UNHCR valued the opportunity to assist and stands ready to work with the Government as it now begins to implement these important changes to ensure the world’s most vulnerable people are protected and able to access asylum. UNHCR has long expressed concern over the expansive use of arbitrary and indefinite detention elsewhere in the region, and we believe New Zealand’s acceptance of the review recommendations sets a positive example.