No immigration reflex needed after Auckland terror attack

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Extremism

As the government accelerates changes to terrorism laws, it is urged to provide more support to de-radicalize extremist offenders and avoid any “knee-jerk reaction” on immigration.

In the wake of the Auckland terror attack last week, much of the attention has – understandably – been drawn to an apparent loophole in the anti-terrorism law which, if corrected in time, would have was able to prevent the terrorist’s release.

News that the man also held refugee status, complicating efforts to deport him, also shed light on the immigration system.

But while Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said on Sunday that the government “continued to revise immigration law” alongside terrorism-related changes, some experts warn of any major overhaul of the system.

Peter Moses, an immigration lawyer, told Newsroom he was not convinced the immigration system was flawed when it came to deporting refugees.

“I’m a little concerned about a knee jerk reaction where you have someone like this who is as much a case of sanity as an example of terrorism.”

Moses likened the approval of asylum claims to the presumption of innocence in the criminal law system, with the desire to avoid convicting innocent people, meaning that some “guilty” people would be released.

“It is really important that the standard of proof for refugees is not too high, as refugees will often find it difficult to substantiate their claim – not because it is not true, but because they are out there. outside their home country, they cannot go to the authorities and ask for evidence of persecution.

“If the legal barriers were too high, then deserving people might not be able to get the protection they deserve. ”

With the Immigration and Protection Tribunal approving more than a third of appeals made to it by refugees, it served as an “absolutely essential safeguard” against incorrect decisions by immigration officials.

“It’s incredibly debilitating, it can take years and years of their lives where they feel like they can’t participate, they are unable to work – it can be extremely demoralizing for their mental health.”
– Meg de Ronde, Amnesty

Amnesty International Aotearoa Executive Director Meg de Ronde told Newsroom the organization did not want a complex and unusual case like the Auckland terrorist used to justify major immigration changes .

Those who were granted refugee status had already suffered greatly before and after being taken to safety, de Ronde said.

The Government had recently launched a review of the use of criminal justice facilities for the detention of migrants, while there were broader issues with a lack of support and long processing times for asylum seekers ( those who applied for refugee status after arriving in the country, rather than through formal admission from New Zealand).

“It’s incredibly debilitating, it can take years and years of their lives where they feel like they can’t participate, they are unable to work – it can be extremely demoralizing for their mental health. “

Amnesty was also concerned that the government would speed up its anti-terrorism legislation the fourth time such laws were passed either urgently or without a period of in-depth consultation, and believed this would infringe on a range of human rights without making the country more secure. .

The best approach was community-led interventions to prevent radicalization and extremism, rather than “behind closed doors practices,” de Ronde said.

Dr Chris Wilson, a senior lecturer at the University of Auckland specializing in violent conflict and terrorism, said there did not appear to be appropriate government programs to help rehabilitate extremist offenders in prison, a certain support only intervening when a prisoner is released.

“New Zealand is kind of caught up in a bit of complacency, because the numbers are low – which they’re compared to overseas – we don’t have hundreds of foreign fighters coming back, and we do not have hundreds of radicalized people and soon …

“So the government tends to go the other way and hasn’t put anything in place yet, which is a bit of a gap now. “

“The gut stuff has to stop and there has to be a real holistic approach for all these types of people coming from very different extremist angles, but the other thing is that they also have to be very tailored to the experience of. this individual. and their grievances and why they radicalized in the first place.
– Dr Chris Wilson, University of Auckland

Wilson said it was unclear how effective de-radicalization programs were in deterring repeat offenders, with recidivism rates for terrorists being low, even among those who were not involved in such initiatives.

They were also of limited use to “the most violent and committed people” like the Auckland terrorist, who had refused a psychological assessment as the first step in further treatment.

The Return of Terrorist Offender Review Order regime, created in 2019 and due to be extended in current anti-terrorism legislation to Parliament, did not require the use of social support services, unlike some other countries.

Wilson said offenders should have access to job training and educational opportunities to help them reintegrate into the community, as well as access to trauma counseling and other multidisciplinary supports.

“The gut stuff has to stop and there has to be a real holistic approach for all these types of people coming from very different extremist angles, but the other thing is that they also have to be very tailored to the experience of. this individual. and their grievances and why they radicalized in the first place.

But Wilson said he also supported the urgent passage of counterterrorism legislation, including the introduction of a planning offense, saying there was a bar high enough the Auckland terrorist had crossed to have deserved an action.

“It’s not just that… someone mentioned that they were going to plant a bomb or that they were going to paintball, and so they were training and preparing for a terrorist attack.

“I think we just have to, at some point, have faith in our legal system to look at these things very, very closely and very soberly.”


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