The Quiet War on Asylum
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‘To the outside world looking in—indeed, to most countries that deal with tens of thousands of refugees annually—it may have seemed outright puzzling. When John Key stepped up to the lectern of his press conference and announced he was introducing mandatory group detention for ‘mass’ boat-arriving asylum seekers to Kiwi shores, there was one confounding detail missing. New Zealand has never had a boatload of asylum seekers in modern history. None.’
Why would a country that has never had a boatload of asylum arrivals in modern history suddenly legislate for mass detention? Geographically isolated and previously a world leader in fair treatment of refugees, New Zealand has abruptly changed tack.
Treading across the refugee camps of Burma and Thailand, to Australia’s detention centres and back to New Zealand, columnist Tracey Barnett looks hard at this controversial new policy. She speaks to asylum seekers, refugees, NGO workers and migrants – people on the move and on the ground. Their lives and stories reveal a reality far more complex than the political rhetoric, and one that questions just how fair and ethical New Zealand really is on the world stage today.