The Refugee Council of Australia’s Project Officer Michelle Ferns joined the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN) and the International Detention Coalition (IDC) last week in pushing the case for New Zealand to lobby support for the expansion of alternatives to immigration detention of children in the Asia Pacific.
The members of the delegation included Dr Robyn Sampson (Senior Research Coordinator for the IDC), Ms Molly Kennedy (Deputy Chair, APRRN Australia New Zealand and the Pacific Working Group), and Mr Chak Ng, who worked with unaccompanied refugee minors for many years at Lutheran Community Services Northwest and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.
In a five-day visit to Auckland and Wellington, the delegates met with MPs, government officials, APRRN members and representatives from a number of other NGOs and civil society organisations to promote New Zealand’s unique role in supporting alternatives to immigration detention for children at risk.
The eight Members of Parliament who met the delegation were drawn from the National, Labour, Green and Maori parties. The delegation also met with officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration New Zealand.
Specifically, the delegation put forward a proposal that New Zealand resettle 20 unaccompanied refugee children from shelters in Indonesia, Malaysia or Thailand. This proposal is designed to make greater strategic use of limited resettlement places, to increase the impact resettlement can achieve. The proposal not only responds to the needs of a number of highly vulnerable children needing protection, but also doubles the impact resettlement can achieve by opening up 20 spaces in the community for children held in detention.
This work follows on from previous visit from APRRN to New Zealand and is an initiative of APRRN’s Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Working Group to build awareness of refugee issues in our region. RCOA continues to be engaged with the APRRN network across a number of platforms.