Zaoui: the lessons

datePosted on 06:00, January 18th, 2009 by Anita

We’ve had comments around the Zaoui debacle on a couple of threads, so I thought I would try to pull together some things I think the government (public servants and politicians) should have learned from it:

  • “National security interests” must be publicly defined and open to public debate and influence
  • Secret evidence is unacceptable in all but the most unusual situations, when it absolutely must be used genuine checks and balances must be in place
  • Refugees should never be housed in prisons, and should be in secure facilities only in the most unusual situations (and that must be open to judicial review)
  • The immediate families of refugees should be allowed to join them as soon as possible.

What have I missed?

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15 Responses to “Zaoui: the lessons”

  1. Lee - MWT on January 18th, 2009 at 08:16

    Ok, you tossed us a carrot. In general yup. But are you talking about refugees in general or about Zoaui specifically?

    How about this: The basis upon which anyone can claim “Refugee Status”

    must be publicly defined and open to public debate and influence

    ?

    For example, was Zaoui merely paranoid? This from Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ahmed_Zaoui :
    Zaoui left Burkina Faso and travelled to Malaysia with his family in 2000. He engaged in political activity with the FIS in exile.

    In 2001 France convicted him in absentia for “participation in a criminal group with a view to preparing terrorist acts”.

    During his time in Malaysia, the head of the Algerian police services visited to observe Malaysian policing methods. Zaoui believed that this was a pretext, that the real reason was his presence in Malaysia, and that the Malaysian authorities were preparing to detain him. [8] He decided to leave Malaysia, and on December 2nd of 2002 he arrived in New Zealand via Vietnam on a fake South African passport.”

    So, how did he get the passport? why didn’t he get one for his family too? Apparently, they were in danger from the Malaysian Authourities were they not? What was it about the visit from Algeria (one Muslim country to another) to observe policing practices that made Zaoui feel he was such a pressing security risk that it was all about him, unless he was either so dangerous, so prominent, or so paranoid, that he was impelled to buy a fake passport and flee, leaving his loved ones to face the full wrath of the Malaysian state?

  2. Tom Semmens on January 18th, 2009 at 09:52

    Here is what to me is the key lesson: Neither the public or other institutions of state (i.e. the courts) believe our Secret Intelligence Service has any credibility whatsoever.

  3. Dimmocrazy on January 18th, 2009 at 10:03

    What you have missed is the question whether a country should accept ‘refugees’ at all, and how such a creature is to be defined.

  4. Anita on January 18th, 2009 at 10:05

    Lee,

    How about this: The basis upon which anyone can claim “Refugee Status” must be publicly defined and open to public debate and influence

    It is now. It is defined within the Immigration Act and is regularly open to public submission (including the very recent review of the Act), and always open to lobbying.

    WRT travelling on a false passport. For very obvious reasons many refugees travel on false travel documents (e.g. some repressive states very narrowly control who is issued a passport), the international convention and New Zealand law both recognise that by explicitly stating that a refugee will not be penalised for arriving on false documents (it’s within the “illegal entry” section).

    P.S. I’m talking about lessons we can learn from the Zaoui case for the systems that handle refugees and national security (plus others if we can come up with them).

  5. Anita on January 18th, 2009 at 10:07

    Dimmocrazy,

    Should we accept refugees? I think (as do the vast majority of New Zealanders) it’s an obvious yes, do you want to argue against that?

    How is a refugee defined? See my previous comment, it is defined in the Immigration Act which was very recently publicly reviewed.

  6. Anita on January 18th, 2009 at 10:11

    Tom Semmens,

    Here is what to me is the key lesson: Neither the public or other institutions of state (i.e. the courts) believe our Secret Intelligence Service has any credibility whatsoever.

    Yes, and I’m honestly not sure how the SIS can dig themselves out of that hole. So many of their recent involvements (Zaoui, the attempt to use the TSA against people arrested in the October 15 raids) have been so obviously ridiculous that they’re not doing themselves any favours.

    That said, the new Director (Warren Tucker, who replaced Richard Woods in 2006) seems to have a better sense of how to build some kind of reputation. Whether he will change the organisation so they deserve our respect is yet to be seen.

  7. Peter Johns on January 18th, 2009 at 11:58

    Send anyone with no pasport back immediately to the airport where they last comenced their journey.

  8. Elizabeth on January 18th, 2009 at 12:07

    Dimmocrazy,

    Should we accept refugees? >

    It’s not a question open to debate. NZ has obligations under the Refugee Convention.

  9. Anita on January 18th, 2009 at 12:52

    Elizabeth writes,

    It’s not a question open to debate. NZ has obligations under the Refugee Convention.

    And if anyone really did want to debate it they would know the rules, and if they did really want to try to change it there’s a transparent political and legislative process they can go through.

    If the SIS thinks banning refugees because of “national security interests” means “France wouldn’t like it and they’re our friend, so send the refugees back to be killed by France’s friends” then
    a) The public has no way of knowing that is what the SIS thinks is a reasonable criteria, and
    b) We have no way to try to change that criteria (if we were to figure out that’s the one they’re using).

    P.S. I think we should take refugees because it’s the right thing to do. These are people who, by definition, no longer have any home; giving them a home, a life and safety is a very small thing to us a very large thing to them.

  10. Elizabeth on January 18th, 2009 at 12:54

    P.S. I think we should take refugees because it’s the right thing to do. These are people who, by definition, no longer have any home; giving them a home, a life and safety is a very small thing to us a very large thing to them.

    Anita, I absolutely agree. It saddens me that anyone could think otherwise.

  11. Lee - MWT on January 18th, 2009 at 19:07

    It is now. It is defined within the Immigration Act and is regularly open to public submission (including the very recent review of the Act), and always open to lobbying.

    http://www.dol.govt.nz/actreview/update/final-issues.asp
    “I propose that, subject to any refinement during drafting, the definition of security in the Bill be:

    “security,

    means:
    the defence of New Zealand
    the protection of New Zealand from acts of espionage, sabotage, and subversion, whether or not they are directed from or intended to be committed within New Zealand
    the identification of foreign capabilities, intentions, or activities within or relating to New Zealand that impact on New Zealand’s international well-being, reputation, or economic well-being
    the protection of New Zealand from activities within or relating to New Zealand that-
    are influenced by any foreign organisation or any foreign person; and
    are clandestine or deceptive, or threaten the safety of any person; and
    impact adversely on New Zealand’s international well-being, reputation, or economic well-being
    the prevention of any terrorist act and of any activity relating to the carrying out or facilitating of any terrorist act
    the prevention, investigation, and detection of organised crime, including trans-national organised crime, and
    in an international security context, includes the safety and stability of the international community, through co-operative measures such as international conventions and other arrangements or agreements between countries”.
    This definition draws from the definition of security in the NZSIS Act 1969 but is broader than that Act’s definition to be fit for use in matters of national or international security, criminal conduct or significant reputational harm to New Zealand as agreed by CBC and Cabinet [CBC Min (07) 20/14, CAB Min (07) 14/1A, CAB Min (07) 18/3][1]. The Bill will also contain a clause stating that the definition of security in the immigration context does not impact on the definition of security in the NZSIS Act 1969.

    It is proposed that consistent with the definition above references to “national or international security” in the Bill be re-drafted to refer to “security” only. This would require Cabinet to agree to rescind the CBC decisions to specifically refer to “national and international security” in the Bill in the areas of exclusion, decision-making, deportation, review and appeal, monitoring and detention and classified information [CBC Min (07) 20/14].

    Agencies note that the proposed definition of “security” is consistent with international understandings of security and is comparable to those used in Australia and Canada – where “security” is defined in legislation, and with the United Kingdom, where is it a matter that has been determined through jurisprudence.”

    I made my original statement based on a guestimate that there would be a definition of security somewhere – i am willing to be educated here – this was a review after all, but it does appear to meet the criteria you mentioned for public debate, publically defined and influenced?

  12. MacDoctor on January 19th, 2009 at 00:01

    Anita:I think you’ve missed:

    “Decisions on refugee status should be made within no more than 10 working days”

    I think 2 weeks is enough for anyone to be in limbo – and how long does one need to get security data together?

  13. Anita on January 19th, 2009 at 09:13

    MacDoctor writes,

    I think 2 weeks is enough for anyone to be in limbo – and how long does one need to get security data together?

    In an ideal world yes, but.. :)

    Some refugees arrive in New Zealand without travel and identity documentation, and sorting out exactly who they are and exactly what their situation is can take more than a fortnight. If someone has fled the persecution of a repressive government in a country which is in the midst of a civil war, for example, they are likely to be travelling without legitimate paperwork (through no fault of their own) and the odds of us being able to be 100% sure about what’s going on in 10 working days is pretty slim.

    How about “Decisions on refugee status should be made as quickly as possible, and at least interim decisions should be made within 10 working days”? We should at least be able to say to someone “If you are who you say you are, and your story is what you say it is this will be our decision. At the moment we’re still working on certainty, but we’re going as fast as we can and in the meantime you can live here as if we had made that decision”.

  14. MacDoctor on January 19th, 2009 at 09:17

    How about “Decisions on refugee status should be made as quickly as possible, and at least interim decisions should be made within 10 working days”? We should at least be able to say to someone “If you are who you say you are, and your story is what you say it is this will be our decision. At the moment we’re still working on certainty, but we’re going as fast as we can and in the meantime you can live here as if we had made that decision”.

    Wordy, but acceptable. :-)

  15. Anita on January 19th, 2009 at 10:35

    Lee,

    http://www.dol.govt.nz/actreview/update/final-issues.asp

    “I propose that, subject to any refinement during drafting, the definition of security in the Bill be:

    […]

    Very interesting, thanks!!

    I can’t find that definition of security (or any definition of security in fact) in the Immigration Act, which either means I’m having a bad searching day (and I’d love someone to point it out to me), or that parliament ignored the agencies’ advice and did not include a definition of security in the Act (making it not public and not available for legislative review).

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