Ensuring Fairness and Respect: A Review of Out of Hours Immigration Visits

Learn about the recent independent review on out of hours immigration visits and its recommendations for change.

In a recent development, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has taken a significant step towards addressing concerns raised by the Pacific community regarding out-of-hours visits to residential addresses for deportation purposes. Following an independent review of the practice, MBIE's head, Carolyn Tremain, has pledged to maintain a pause on these visits and implement essential changes to ensure fairness, respect, and cultural sensitivity. Let's delve into the key recommendations and the path forward.

A Review Driven by Community Voices

The independent review, led by Mike Heron KC, aimed to capture the perspectives of affected communities, immigration experts, and relevant government bodies. Leaders and members of the Pacific, Indian, and Chinese communities, along with immigration lawyers and advisers, were interviewed. Additionally, representatives nominated by the Ministry for Pacific Peoples and the Ministry for Ethnic Communities participated in the review process. Through online sessions and an online survey, the wider Pacific, Indian, Chinese, and Latin American communities were also given a platform to share their experiences and contribute to the recommendations.

Recommendations for Change

The review has proposed five significant recommendations that aim to address the concerns raised and establish clearer guidelines for out-of-hours compliance visits:

  • Specifying Criteria and Limitations: The government should consider amending the Immigration Act 2009 to define specific criteria for out-of-hours compliance visits and determine whether these visits to residential addresses should be stopped altogether or limited to specific situations.
  • Updating Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs): SOPs and guidelines for compliance officers must be revised to emphasize that out-of-hours compliance visits should only be considered as a last resort. The updated SOPs should reflect policies concerning the occurrence and conduct of such visits.
  • Considering the Impact on Others: Any assessment of out-of-hours visits should carefully evaluate the potential impact on individuals present during the visit, particularly children, the elderly, vulnerable individuals, as well as New Zealand citizens or residents. Cultural factors should be taken into account during the execution of these operations.
  • Assessment of Reasonableness and Proportionality: A decision to conduct an out-of-hours compliance visit should involve an assessment of reasonableness, proportionality, and public interest to ensure a fair and balanced approach.
  • Strengthening Authorization Processes: The review suggests that any out-of-hours compliance activity should be authorized by the relevant compliance manager and national manager. There are also arguments for further elevating the authorization process.

Moving Towards Change and Acknowledging the Past

While the decision to review or modify existing legislation lies with the government, MBIE is committed to taking immediate action. Ms Tremain acknowledges the historical trauma inflicted by the Dawn Raids of the 1970s on the Pacific community and expresses a dedication to learning from the past to shape a better future. In recognition of the government's apology for the Dawn Raids, MBIE is working diligently to update SOPs and guidance for compliance officers. The new guidance will explicitly outline when and how out-of-hours visits can occur, emphasizing that they should only be employed as a last resort when all other alternatives have been exhausted.

Continuing the Pause and Striving for Lasting Change

In a demonstration of their commitment to rectifying the existing issues, MBIE will maintain the pause on hours compliance visits to residential addresses until the guidance is appropriately updated. This ensures that visits will be limited to the hours of 8 am to 6 pm, Monday through Friday. Although out-of-hours visits are relatively rare, comprising only about 3% of compliance visits, MBIE recognizes their potential impact and acknowledges the need to refine guidelines, ensuring they are carried out as a last resort and strictly adhere to established protocols.

Conclusion

The release of the independent review into out-of-hours immigration visits marks an essential step forward in ensuring fairness, respect, and cultural sensitivity in deportation procedures. By incorporating community voices and engaging with various stakeholders, the review has generated significant recommendations aimed at improving the existing system. As MBIE works towards updating SOPs and guidance, the commitment to pause out-of-hours visits demonstrates a dedication to address concerns and promote a more equitable immigration process. Through these efforts, New Zealand strives to learn from the past and shape a future where every individual is treated with dignity and fairness.

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