New dawn for dawn raids
Immigration officers have spent two weeks training at the NZ Police College to exercise new powers to enter premises and detain people for deportation under the Immigration Act. There is no guarantee that there will not be a return to the racist ‘dawn raids’ of the 1970s in which Pacific Island communities particularly in South Auckland were subjected to violent early morning raids as police searched for overstayers. We can expect that these powers will be used to harass, intimidate and threaten people in their homes in early morning dawn raids. An immigration official said, ‘officers will not carry out dawn raids unless they know someone leaves for work before 7am’ which means nothing.
Three people have already been detained under these expanded powers. These new powers include the ability to hold people for up to four hours, to get ‘biometric’ information such as fingerprints and access to the records of educational providers.
The New Zealand Law Society says new powers for immigration officers to arrest and detain overstayers for deportation are a recipe for disaster and should be put on hold.
Immigration committee convenor John McBride said overstayers who have applied to have their visa restored could find themselves arrested and on a plane within four hours, with no explanation.
Last year the Immigration Compliance Operations team undertook 843 site visits to horticultural areas, educational institutes, workplaces and residential addresses to ensure the Immigration Act is being followed.
The immigration department is being turned into another police force. The entire rationale for these expanded powers is to free up police from executing deportation orders. The expansion of policing powers to the police is bad enough, the expansion of policing to immigration is dangerous.
The Public Service Association is saying that immigration agents have little support to do this work, comparing them to police who they say have long training and support to do enforcement work. The problem is that even with all that training and support, the police frequently use excessive force, terrorise communities and have the wrong information.
Along with the expanding power of immigration authorities, New Zealand is proposing a law that would lock up boat-arriving asylum seekers. The irony--in modern history, New Zealand has never had a boat arrival of asylum seekers.
These laws and expanded powers are nothing but a racist ruse to detract attention from the government’s appalling performance on things that actually make a difference to people’s lives: jobs, health care, education, poverty and the state of the environment. They are attacking some of the most vulnerable people in our society who are not in a position to speak out, and fearmongering about non-existent immigration issues.