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Makes An Immigration Touch Soft? |
Thursday, 30 September 2004, 3:28 pm
Article: Kevin List
What Exactly Makes An Immigration Touch Soft?
Tony Ryall, Zimbabwean Farmers And The Tampa Refugees
By Kevin List
National Party immigration spokesperson Tony Ryall today accused the Government of enabling ''immigration by stealth'' in the Dominion Post.
Mr Ryall's concerns related to the situation regarding the number of Tampa refugees [from the Norwegian freighter Tampa] in New Zealand and highlighted the fact that some of refugees' families and relations had joined them in New Zealand.
Mr Ryall said the fact that New Zealand's policy allows families to be re-united is sending a poor message to the rest of the world. "It's little wonder we are seen as a soft touch," he told the Dominion Post.
Meanwhile, last week the New Zealand Government instituted a policy exception that could see more than 2000 Zimbabwean citizens already in New Zealand gain permanent residence. And in time these migrants too will be able to bring family members to New Zealand under the family reunification immigration policy.
With these two apparently similar cases on the table at the same time Scoop wondered whether perhaps there could be more than one standard by which the National Party's Immigration spokesman sees fit to judge would be migrants.
Tony Ryall's Initial Reaction To The Zimbabwe Immigration Exception
At the time the Zimbabwean Immigration exception was announced last Friday Scoop sought clarification from Tony Ryall about how this particular policy would work and whether New Zealand could be seen as a "soft touch" by easing immigration restrictions on Zimbabweans already in New Zealand.
Mr Ryall was somewhat reticent about criticising the Governments policy regarding Zimbabwean migrants.
"We haven't said anything because we can understand why they [the Governmentt] are doing it," he said. Mr Ryall's primary concern regarding the Zimbabwean policy exception seemed to relate to the government's alleged indifference to agriculture
"The real issue with anything to do with the Zimbabweans is that the fact government doesn't consider agriculture to be a skilled qualification - and we'll be having a go at that in Parliament" he said. This matter has also been of concern to Federated Farmers.
When pushed as to the details of how the government's Zimbabwe policy exception was going to work Mr Ryall shied away from expressing any specific view.
"Probably we won't be getting into it – it's a bit of a no-brainer where [if we make a statement] the public thinks why would we be picking on these people?"
Clearly given today's concern that New Zealand could be seen as a soft touch for allowing the re-unification of Tampa refugee families involving a few hundred individuals Tony Ryall has no concerns about being seen to pick on them however.
Scoop caught up with Mr Ryall and posed a few questions regarding today's Dominion Post article.
Questions On The Tampa Refugees And New Zealand Being Seen As A "Soft Touch"
Scoop: The original Tampa refugees came in under the UNHCR Quota of 750 refugees in the year they first arrived didn't they?
Tony Ryall: Yes that's is right even though they weren't UN approved.
Scoop: Checking through the other years it seems as if the family re-unification of the Tampa refugees also occurred yet again within the 750 UNHCR places.
Tony Ryall: There's some confusion there because I assumed they came in under the separate family re-unification procedure, whereas the answer given to Oskar Alley [Dominion Post journalist] was that they [Tampa re-unification refugees] came in under the UNHCR quota of 750 people.
Scoop: Have spontaneous refugee numbers been dropping since the implementation of Advanced Passenger Processing (APP)?
Tony Ryall: It [the spontaneous refugee category] was running at about 950 people a couple of years ago, dropped to 650 last financial year and in 2003-04 it was 411.
Scoop: So that category has dropped significantly?
Tony Ryall: It has halved
Questions On The Zimbabwean Policy Exception And New Zealand As A Soft Touch
Scoop: You said [in today's Dominion Post] that you were concerned New Zealand could be seen as a soft touch – was that correct?
Tony Ryall: Yes.
Scoop: But you are not concerned that millions of Zimbabweans will consider New Zealand is a soft touch?
Tony Ryall: I don't think there's much doubt about that – however the point I was making with the written questions regarding refugees was that the original Tampa boys have brought in more than 200 family members.
Scoop: Won't giving 2300 Zimbabwean residents permanent residence make New Zealand seem a soft touch for Zimbabweans – even more so than 200 Tampa refugee family members?
Tony Ryall: But the Zimbabweans are already here.
Scoop: Yes but won't they [the Zimbaweans] be able to bring their families and relatives in when they become permanent residents?
Tony Ryall: As I've discussed previously I am not completely informed regarding the Zimbabwean situation - which is why I haven't made a statement on it. But I'll have a look at it.
We have a fundamental right to freedom of expression!
28 September 2004
It is interesting to speculate whether Robert Mugabe fully understood the significance of his act when he signed up to the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections in Mauritius last month. Did he think it was just another protocol that was impressive on paper but signified nothing ? Did he think it was incapable of enforcement (it contains no enforcement mechanism), and that in any event his SADC partners would never really call him to account by these standards ? One interesting theory is that those few SADC heads of state who do have a care about what happens in Zimbabwe and want to stop the rot, ambushed Mugabe into signing – putting him in a corner where he could hardly refuse and at the same time playing down the significance of the agreement. In any event the SADC protocol comes as a godsend to the progressive forces within Zimbabwe working for freedom and democracy, providing them with a clear set of standards against which to measure the performance of ZANU (PF). Moreover the standards were shaped and crafted within the region. They are 100 per cent “indigenous” and cannot therefore be attacked for importing foreign, western values or promoting the interests of the former colonial rulers. In fact many of the points listed in the SADC standards closely resemble the 15 minimum requirements put forward by the MDC some time ago.
A benchmark has been laid down then against which the acts and omissions of the ruling party can be measured in the run-up to the parliamentary elections of March 2005. The MDC leadership have been quick to point out that elections are a process rather than an event in time, and just how fair and free they are can only be assessed with reference to the wider time frame. So here we are, six months or so ahead of the general election, and this is precisely the time to start that assessment – using the SADC standards as our measure. This is the benchmark to which Zimbabwe and the region must return, time and again.
One could start virtually anywhere since the SADC protocol covers the whole spectrum of political activities, before, during and after the voting. But let us start with the crucial issue of media access. The SADC protocol is very clear here, laying down that there should be “equal opportunity for all political parties to access the state media” (clause 2.1.5). This is reinforced by clause 7.4 which stipulates that member states holding elections should “safeguard the human and civil liberties of all citizens including the freedom of movement, assembly, association, expression and campaigning as well as access to the media on the part of all stakeholders during the electoral process”. And to put the matter beyond any doubt clause 7.1 requires all member states to “take necessary measures to ensure the scrupulous implementation of the above principles”. That all parties therefore should be afforded equal access to the state media is clear enough. The question is, how does the present regime measure up against this requirement ?
To be scrupulously fair to the regime we will not delve back into the past, nor consider any possible breach of the media access requirement before Mugabe appended his signature to the protocol in Mauritius last month. (Though it could well be pointed out that the SADC Parliamentary Forum Electoral Recommendations which contain many similar provisions has been in existence for a much longer period, and had at the very least considerable persuasive effect). But let us confine ourselves to the short period since the Mauritius protocol, and consider for example the case of an MDC leader who now wishes to access the state media to flight an advert informing his constituents of a forthcoming report-back meeting. It is a matter of record that the only independent daily newspaper the Daily News was closed down by the Mugabe regime in September 2003. The only dailies left are the state-controlled Herald in Harare and the Chronicle in Bulawayo. (The regime also has a monopoly control of the airwaves of course for both radio and television) But suppose our MDC leader lives in Bulawayo. What is he to do to advertise his meeting in the press ?. He has only one course and that is to place an ad in the Chronicle. In what follows I recount what actually took place here in Bulawayo just over a week ago.
David Coltart is the Member of Parliament for Bulawayo South. He is also the MDC Shadow Minister of Justice who was elected by a massive majority in the last parliamentary elections. In early September he arranged to hold a number of report back meetings in the constituency – which he has done on a regular basis when not prevented from doing so by the police purporting to act under P.O.S.A. (the Public Order and Security Act). Accordingly on 10th September his information and publicity secretary took a simple notification of the first meeting along to the offices of the Chronicle in Bulawayo. There she spoke to an advertising sales rep who assured her (before seeing the notice) that it would fine to place the ad in the paper for the following Monday (the 13th). The sales rep even quoted the precise cost and she proceeded to make out a form to which the notice was pasted. However at that point the sales rep noticed for the first time that it was an MDC meeting that was to be advertised, and the effect was dramatic. She immediately became extremely agitated, and left the office to consult her superiors. After an interval of ten minutes or more she returned, only to advise the MDC representative that the advert had been denied. She produced the piece of paper to which the notice had been attached, and which now bore the word “Declined” in bold print, with a signature below. Further consternation followed on the sales rep’s part when the MDC official left quietly taking with her the complete form bearing the evidence of refusal. “No, you can’t !” said the hapless Chronicle employee as the retreating figure made for the door.
Here we have just one example of a clear breach of the SADC standards. Countless others could be provided, and in the weeks ahead as the nation approaches the March 2005 poll no doubt many other breaches will come to light. Freedom to campaign, equality of opportunity, fair play between contestants – “Declined !”, “Declined !” “Declined !” Never mind all the political posturing, it is plain for all to see that Mugabe and his minions have not the slightest intention of adhering to either the letter or the spirit of the SADC standards. But we, the citizens of Zimbabwe, now have a benchmark to measure their performance by, and we must use that to the full to demonstrate to the region and the world that the democratic credentials claimed by ZANU (PF) are utterly spurious.