The New Zealand government’s proposed hard-line stance against boatpeople seeking asylum has been met with an online campaign featuring Oscar Kightley against the move. KARL SAMUEL believes caution is necessary
Boat people – Genuine victims or opportunistic queue jumpers?
The other day I came across one of those online campaign videos that use celebrities (Oscar Kightley and Dave Dobbyn among them) to endorse some sort of political agenda. You know, the type often accompanied by touching music, an emotive script, and a corny tag line.
The video addressed a worthwhile topic, but it also tried to pass itself off as truth on an issue that, in reality, is far too complex to be understood in a minute and a half on You Tube (or in a 500 word blog for that matter) – that of asylum seekers and mandatory detention.
While New Zealand has a proud humanitarian history, recently there’s been controversy over the government’s new legislation to deter boat people.
After 10 Chinese asylum seekers attempted to make it to New Zealand earlier this year, Prime Minister John Key decided to get tough on illegal immigration, announcing law changes that would effectively see the creation of New Zealand’s first mandatory detention centres.
The government said the proposed laws would also include the ability to detain large numbers of people as part of a ‘group warrant’ as opposed to individual warrants, and this, in particular, upsets a lot of people.
Some say it’s scaremongering by the government, others say it’s a real threat that requires a hard-line approach.
It’s definitely a catch-22, but generally, I support a tougher policy.
While I understand the fundamental humanitarian issues involved, I also agree that a clear message needs to be sent to those who think they can get away with human trafficking.
It’s reasonable to question some of the motives that drive these boats towards our shores.
There is the fact that many know it will be easy enough for them to take advantage of New Zealand’s relatively light stance on refugee immigration and generally ill-documented position on asylum detention. Some come with a sense of entitlement, more so than an absolute need for refuge.
Queue-jumpers are another issue. There needs to be an effective way of distinguishing genuine asylum seekers from those who have simply paid their way or had the right connections to get themselves on board.
Allowing this to continue, without doing anything to stamp it out, would lead to an unsustainable number of people claiming asylum for a host of different reasons.
I admit that such a strict policy would inevitably end up punishing true refugees, but the corrupt nature of the illegal immigration system as it stands, especially regarding boat people, means that it is necessary until there is a more effective way of policing such activity.
I have volunteered at refugee centres in Auckland. I have seen the genuine need of these people. But it’s also true that the terms asylum seeker and refugee are often confused.
The difference is that an asylum seeker is someone who says he or she is a refugee, but whose claim has not yet been definitively evaluated.
Hence, there is no argument over the need that these people are in. But it could and should never be as easy as simply turning up and expecting everything to be okay. Our country needs to be sure we can cater for those in genuine need and expose corruption at the same time.
I’m well aware that many of our Pacific people immigrated to New Zealand illegally, but my main concern is with the dishonest practices and cavalier attitude of human traffickers.
I’m also of the belief that people need to come with a willingness to adopt a New Zealand way of life. Unfortunately from my experience, too many don’t, as they often carry the same attitudes that caused conflict in the countries they came from. But that requires more energy than I have at the moment, so I’ll save that for next time.
Do you agree with Karl’s hard-line stance against boat people? Or should we adopt a more sympathetic approach? Give us your views.