Refugees, Asylum Seekers & Migrants
|Paryang Refugee Camp, South Sudan, 17 April 2012. (c) Pete Muller|
The debate around asylum seekers and refugees is often framed by myths, misconceptions, and the misuse of language. And yet the facts are simple;
1) Seeking asylum is a human right.
2) Asylum seekers arriving by boat are not acting illegally. Their right to seek protection can be found in the United Nations Refugee Convention and the New Zealand Immigration Act 2009.
3) Research on the Australian situation shows that nearly all asylum seekers arriving by boat are genuine refugees fleeing persecution, torture and violence.
4) New Zealand has never had any asylum seekers reach its shores by boat. It is too geographically distant to ever get many asylum seekers.
5) It is illegal to discriminate against asylum seekers because of their method of arrival. It should make no difference to their rights as to whether asylum seekers arrive individually or in a group.
6) New Zealand gets only a tiny fraction of the world’s asylum seekers. Only an average of 300 claims for asylum are made here each year. Australia has around 9,000 and the UK has 45,000. Most of the world’s asylum seekers are hosted by developing countries.
7) Harsh detention policies do not deter people smugglers or asylum seekers. It is a proven fact that the numbers of asylum seekers fluctuate according to conflict and persecution.
Know your refugee and asylum seeker facts and myths - (pdf 400KB)
Protecting the vulnerable
Millions of people have no choice but to flee their homeland to escape persecution and conflict – leaving them vulnerable to grave human rights abuse.
Amnesty International campaigns to ensure the rights of refugees and asylum seekers are protected by working to prevent human rights violations that cause people to flee their homes. At the same time, we oppose the forcible return of any individual to a country where he or she faces serious human rights violations.
New Zealand is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Status of Refugees (the Refugee Convention). Amnesty International aims to ensure that New Zealand observes its human rights obligations as set out in this Convention and other internationally recognised standards that New Zealand is a party to, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
New Zealand is yet to ratify the Stateless Persons Convention and the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.
Asylum seekers are individuals who are seeking refugee status and protection in another country from persecution in their own country. Their right to do so is protected by Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 1 of the Refugee Convention.
A refugee is an individual who has fled their country and has been found to be at serious risk of harm as a result of their political beliefs, race, religion, nationality or social group.
With the aim of adding light to the debates around asylums seekers, a fact sheet on the rights of Asylum Seekers, Refugees and Migrants can be found here and another sheet ‘debunking the myths’ surrounding Refugees and Asylum Seekers can be found here.
A migrant is a person who moves from one place to another to live, and usually to work, either temporarily or permanently. They may be forced to leave because they do not have access to adequate food, water or shelter, or in order to ensure the safety and security of themselves and their families.
The New Zealand authorities draw a distinction between people smuggling and people trafficking:
“People smuggling relates to a migrant voluntarily paying a smuggler to facilitate illegal entry into another country and the smuggler obtaining, directly or indirectly, a financial or other material benefit for procuring such entry. Victims of people trafficking are deceptively recruited from one country into exploitative conditions in another country which they did not agree to or have been coerced to accept.”
- Department of Labour website
Amnesty International acknowledges that people smuggling is a crime and accepts that governments must take measures to reduce incidents of unauthorised immigration. The organisation remains concerned however, that this is a narrow distinction between the two terms.
There are many cases where refugees have used people smugglers because their choices are extremely limited. Asylum seekers are usually desperate and people smugglers are often deceptive, eliciting further funds from the refugee once they arrive and making threats against family members left behind. There are reports of false promises in relation to visas, treatment and even destination.
Amnesty International also recognises that people smuggling is a significant issue on the rise both in the Asia-Pacific region and globally. However, in order to effectively reduce such incidents in a manner that is both durable and humane, New Zealand must address the reasons that force asylum seekers onto boats.