Kiwi celebs unite against asylum bill

By Paul Harper

Dave Dobbyn in the 'We are better than that' video. Photo / You Tube
Dave Dobbyn in the 'We are better than that' video. Photo / You Tube

Several well-known Kiwi personalities have voiced their opposition to the Immigration Amendment Bill in a video released on You Tube.

The clip, entitled "We are better than that", includes comedians Jeremy Elwood, Michele A'Court and Oscar Kightley, musician Dave Dobbyn and arts curator and social commentator Hamish Keith.

The Immigration Amendment Bill, which earlier this year passed its first vote and has gone before select committee, will see an arrival of more than 10 asylum seekers defined as a "mass arrival", with mandatory detention for mass arrivals for up to six months.

It will limit the group of people refugees can apply for in a family reunification application to "immediate family", grant authorities greater powers to suspend processing of refugees and make it more difficult for refugees to have their asylum claims reviewed.

Journalist and ex-Herald columnist Tracey Barnett is behind the group "We are better than that" which is calling for a public discussion on the bill.

"For the first time, 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," the group's Facebook page reads.

"Mandatory detention has had disastrous results for Australia - suicides, depression, detainees burning their camps in despair. Not so in this country.

"New Zealand has always allowed the very small numbers who do make it here by plane to wait in the community until their case is decided, with few exceptions. Only about 125 asylum seekers get to stay in New Zealand, of the roughly 300 that apply each year. We have always honoured the UN Conventions that promise we won't treat those running for their lives like criminals - until now."

Immigration Minister Nathan Guy has defended the bill, telling Parliament in May that although New Zealand has never had a "mass arrival" of asylum seekers, the law change will enable the country to act if it ever occurred.

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