Amnesty International on pathetic refugee quota increase

refugee quota

Shameful and inhumane response to refugee quota

13 June 2016

Shameful and inhumane response to refugee quota, a stain on our country’s reputation

Amnesty International says the announcement by Prime Minister John Key that New Zealand will not be increasing the refugee quota for two years is absolutely shameful in the face of the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis.

Responding to Prime Minister Key’s announcement today that the quota will only increase to 1000 and not until 2018, Amnesty International’s Executive Director Grant Bayldon said:

“By only increasing the annual refugee resettlement quota by 250 people in two years time, the New Zealand government have not only failed to do the right thing, they have failed the people whose lives they could have saved through resettlement.

“This is a shameful and inhumane response and a stain on our country’s reputation as a good global citizen.

“The fact that Prime Minister Key decided not to at least double the refugee quota shows that he and his Government are completely out of step with public sentiment as the people of New Zealand have clearly expressed their desire to help their fellow human beings.

“What we need to remember is that we’re talking about people here, people who New Zealand has the opportunity to provide a chance to restart their lives in safety and with dignity. The reality is that we need a significant response from a country that currently holds a place on the UN Security Council.

“The Government should have been looking at how much, not how little, we can do to help while people need protection and a second chance. Doubling our refugee quota would have been the least we could have done after 29 years without an increase.

“Amnesty International will continue to call on the Government to do its fair share and at least double the quota to help address the shameful imbalance that exists when it comes to sharing responsibility in the face of the global refugee crisis.

“Following that the next step must be an annual increase in the quota to meet the growing need for resettlement places.

“We also call on Prime Minister John Key to ensure an increase in resources to support front-line services working in resettlement and ensure we continue to give refugees the best start to life in New Zealand”.

Media Release: Loud and clear from the social sector – Raise the age of youth justice

Today 26 organisations and 5 independent experts from across the youth, justice and disability sectors have joined together to call on the Government to raise the age of youth justice in Aotearoa.

The message from the sector is clear. When we treat children and young people as adults in our justice system we create more social harm. We throw away the potential of these young people and create more offending in our communities. Over 90% of under 20s who spend time in prison are re-convicted within 2 years. “It’s not working” says Katie Bruce, Director of JustSpeak, a network of young people speaking out for evidence-based reform.

There is nothing soft about reducing future crime, respecting victims and holding young people to account in a way that addresses the causes of their offending. Thousands of young people, victims and whānau would benefit every year, especially young Māori, who are grossly overrepresented in the criminal justice system. David Hanna, Director of Wesley Community Action says “the evidence is clear – we just need political leadership”.

Next month Cabinet will decide whether to include 17 year olds in the youth justice system. This was a key recommendation of the government appointed Expert Panel on the modernisation of Child, Youth and Family. The report stated that: “Children and young people would be considered children and young people first and foremost, rather than offenders and this would drive the nature of professional practice”.

The Government has accepted the Expert Panel’s recommendation to raise the age of care to 18, with additional support into the 20s, but is yet to agree to raise the age of youth justice.

“We can’t separate the two,” says Director of JustSpeak, Katie Bruce. “We are talking, far too often, about the same young people”. Up to 80% of young people appearing in Youth Court have had concerns raised about their abuse or neglect as children. “Young people need consistency in the way that we support them to have bright futures as adults, both in care and protection and youth justice. We need to raise the age of youth justice to at least 18, with additional provisions to bring older young people into the youth justice system where we can.”

Ministers may be concerned that the Youth Justice system is a soft option. “The public can be reassured,” says Dr Nessa Lynch, Senior Law Lecturer at Victoria University. “Top-end offending, such as homicide and other serious offences, will continue to be dealt with through the adult justice system while the minor and moderate offending, which makes up the majority of offending committed by 17 year olds, will receive a response that holds the young person accountable while addressing the problems that led them to the situation.”

“We now know that our brains continue to develop throughout adolescence and into early adulthood” says Sue Wright, Brainwave Executive Director. “This means our ability to plan and think through the consequences of our actions is still maturing until we are in our early 20s. In men this is nearer to 25 years old. As we gain understanding of adolescent brain development we now know that risk taking and impulsive behaviour are a normal part of this maturation process. This can, at times, lead to behaviours which put the adolescent at risk of making poor decisions. While this does not justify breaking the law, it is clear that young people need scaffolding and appropriate adult support through these years to learn to manage the consequences of their behaviour.”

Vanushi Walters, General Manager of YouthLaw says “It’s simple. The restorative approach used within the Youth Court works. We’ve seen it work”. Moira Lawler, Chief Executive of Lifewise, says, “We see the difference it makes in a young person’s life when they are given the opportunities they need to turn their lives around.” Lifewise run a Youth Transition Service in West Auckland where they work closely with young people struggling with homelessness to connect them to the vocational training and job opportunities they are looking for. “Raising the age of youth justice would give young people the chance and the time they need to become the responsible, hardworking Kiwis they are meant to be,” says Moira.

Our youth justice system models a pioneering response for those with neurodisabilities, as highlighted in the ‘Neurodisability in the Youth Justice System’ report out just last week. We are only just starting to understand the extent of young people with neurodisabilities, such as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, in our criminal justice system. “Raising the Youth Justice age is the best option to radically improve prospects for young people with neurodisabilities who are vulnerable in the justice system,” says Guy Pope-Mayell, Chair of Trustees of Dyslexia Foundation. Young people with neurodisabilities are obvious candidates to have access to the youth justice system in their late teens and even early twenties.

Kim Workman, justice advocate agrees. “There has been a significant shift on this issue worldwide, as the neurobiological and criminological evidence draws nations toward one inescapable conclusion – that they need to raise the age to at least 18 years. In 41 of the 50 US states, 18 is the cut-off point, and five of the remaining nine states have legislation in train to join the majority. New Zealand’s world- wide reputation as a leader in youth justice is at stake here.”

Supporting organisations:

Action for Children and Youth Aotearoa, Ara Taiohi, Brainwave Trust, Challenge 2000, Children’s Issues Centre, Community Law, Donald Beasley Institute, Dyslexia Foundation, FASD-CAN, Hui E, Human Rights Foundation, Human Rights Lawyers Association, JustSpeak, Lifewise, OMEP, Pillars, Prison Fellowship, Restorative Practices Aotearoa, Salvation Army, Talking Trouble, Te Taitimu Trust, Unicef, Victim Support, Wesley Community Action, YouthLaw, Youthline.

Supporting experts:

Professor Mark Henaghan, Dr Nessa Lynch, Dr Kim Workman, Associate Professor Nicola Taylor and Megan Gollop.

Link.

Rights on Saturday: Free Speech Explained In 5 Human Rights Cases

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By Michael Goldin of RightsInfo

26th May 2016

Freedom of speech, often called freedom of expression, is thought of by many as the cornerstone of a liberal democracy.

One of the founding fathers of the United States, Benjamin Franklin, stated that:

Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government; when this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved, and tyranny is erected on its ruins.

 But what do we know about freedom of speech? Here’s what the cases tell us:

 It can help in the most bizarre of situations…

R v Paul Chambers

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Al Murray, Paul Chambers and Stephen Fry outside the High Court outside the ‘Twitter Joke Trial’ appeal hearing on 27 June 2012

This case, also known as the “Twitter Joke Trial” was about a tweet Paul posted while at an airport. When cold weather resulted in his flight from Robin Hood Airport in Yorkshire being cancelled he tweeted:

 Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!!

This resulted in his home being raided by anti-terror police and he was charged under the Communications Act 2003 with sending a ‘menacing message’. Many public figures felt that such a response was absurd with Stephen Fry offering to pay his fine and legal fees.

While initially the Magistrates’ Court found that the tweet was of a “menacing nature”, the High Court reversed this decision. They said that the tweet did not cause fear in those who read it and, in any event, the 2003 Act did not intend to create a new exception to freedom of speech and its standards must be upheld.

 It helps journalists publish on matters of public interest

Reynolds v Times Newspapers [1999]

 

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Albert Reynolds (right) with Donal Kinsella at the Trimproof Limited plant on 3rd July 1992

Albert Reynolds was a former Prime Minister of Ireland. Upon his resignation in 1994, The Times published an article implying that he had misled the Irish Parliament by suppressing vital information from them. Albert claimed that this was not true and was therefore defamatory.

The Times thought they should be allowed to publish these allegations because a defence called “qualified privilege” was available to them. This meant they make these accusations even without full proof.

The House of Lords (the UK’s then-highest court) ruled in the journalists’ favour, finding that:

…freedom to disseminate and receive information on political matters is essential to the proper functioning of the system of parliamentary democracy cherished in this country.

 But freedom of speech has its limits (at least in Europe)

Norwood v UK [2004]

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Anthony Norwood, an organiser with the far-right political party, the British National Party (BNP), had been convicted under the Public Order Act 1986 for putting up a BNP poster in window of his flat. The poster contained an image of the Twin Towers on fire accompanied by the words “Islam out of Britain – Protect the British People”. He argued that his criminal conviction for displaying the poster was a direct violation of his right to free speech which should allow him to make such offensive and provocative statements.

The European Court of Human Rights disagreed. They said that the poster was a direct attack on all Muslims in Britain. Human rights are designed to protect religious groups and such a “general, vehement” attack on them could therefore not be protected speech.

Like when it comes up against national security…

R v Shayler [2002]

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David Shayler, a former member of the security services, disclosed to the press a number of classified documents relating to matters of intelligence and security. He also published an article exposing security secrets in the Mail on Sunday. He argued, among other things, that it was in the public interest for these secrets to be published given that they exposed abuses of power by the security services.

The House of Lords decided that while there had been a breach of David’s right to freedom of expression this had to be balanced against national security. They found that in this instance the latter prevailed and David was not entitled to divulge the information he did.

 And it can’t make people broadcast offensive images either

R (Pro-Life Alliance) v BBC (and others) [2003]

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In the run up to the 1997 general election the Pro-Life Alliance Party wanted to air a party election broadcast which contained graphic images of abortion. This was prohibited by the BBC and other broadcasters and the matter went to court.

The House of Lords said that the broadcasters were within their rights to refuse to broadcast offensive material.

  • Check out Rights Info post on why the right to free expression matters here
  • For Rights Info post on how human rights protect the free press, click here
  • For the story behind a very important free press case, click here

Featured image ©Global Justice Now, used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic Licence. Image of Paul Chambers, Stephen Fry et al © Pigsonthewing used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic Licence. Albert Reynolds image © Dearbhlakinsella. David Shayler image © www.axisforpeace.net, used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Window image © Paolo, used under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic Licence.

PNG Supreme Court rules detention of asylum seekers illegal

Manus Island detention centre

PNG Supreme Court rules detention of asylum seekers illegal

 

Arun Kundnani: West’s Islamophobia only helping Isis

By Arun Kundnani

Family and friends mourn during the funeral of Simha Damarib 60, one of three Israelis killed in a suicide bomb attack in Istanbul, Turkey, in Dimona, southern Israel on Tuesday. Photo / AP
Family and friends mourn during the funeral of Simha Damarib 60, one of three Israelis killed in a suicide bomb attack in Istanbul, Turkey, in Dimona, southern Israel on Tuesday. Photo / AP

The promise of the “global war on terror” was that “it was better to fight them there than here”. That promise brought mass violence to Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Palestinian territories, Yemen and Somalia – in the name of peace in the West.

That formula has clearly failed. Tuesday’s bombings in Brussels come on the heels of similar incidents in Grand-Bassam, Ivory Coast; Maiduguri, Nigeria; Istanbul; Beirut; Paris; and Bamako, Mali, all in the last six months. Rather than containing violence, the war on terror turned the whole world into a battlefield.

We should not be surprised. Violence inflicted abroad always comes home in some form. Last year, the US military dropped 22,110 bombs on Iraq and Syria. The Pentagon says these bombs “likely” killed only six civilians, along with “at least” 25,000 Isis (Islamic State) fighters. The true number of civilian deaths, though, is likely to be in the thousands as well.

Indeed, we know that the war on terror kills more civilians than terrorism does. But we tolerate this because it is “their” civilians being killed in places we imagine to be too far away to matter. There is no social media hashtag to commemorate these deaths; no news channel tells their stories.

Because we pay little attention to the effects of our violence in the places we bomb, it appears that terrorism comes out of the blue. When it does happen, then, the only way we can make sense of it is by laying the blame on Islamic culture.

When opinion polls find that most Muslims think Westerners are selfish, immoral and violent, we have no idea of the real causes. And so we assume such opinions must be an expression of their culture rather than our politics.

US Republican presidential candidates Donald Trump and Ted Cruz have exploited these reactions with their appeals to Islamophobia. But most liberals also assume that religious extremism is the root cause of terrorism. US President Barack Obama, for example, has spoken of “a violent, radical, fanatical, nihilistic interpretation of Islam by a faction – a tiny faction – within the Muslim community that is our enemy, and that has to be defeated”.

Based on this assumption, think-tanks, intelligence agencies and academic departments linked to the national security apparatus have spent millions of dollars since 9/11 conducting research on radicalisation. They hoped to find a correlation between having extremist religious ideas, however defined, and involvement in terrorism.

In fact, no such correlation exists, as empirical evidence demonstrates – witness the European Isis volunteers who arrive in Syria with copies of Islam for Dummies or the alleged leader of the November 2015 Paris attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who was reported to have drunk whisky and smoked cannabis. But this has not stopped national security agencies, such as the FBI, from using radicalisation models that assume devout religious beliefs are an indicator of potential terrorism.

The process of radicalisation is easily understood if we imagine how we would respond to a foreign government dropping 22,000 bombs on us. Large numbers of patriots would be volunteering to fight the perpetrators. And nationalist and religious ideologies would compete with each other to lead that movement and give its adherents a sense of purpose.

Similarly, Isis does not primarily recruit through theological arguments but through a militarised identity politics. It says there is a global war between the West and Islam, a heroic struggle, with truth and justice on one side and lies, depravity and corruption on the other. It shows images of innocents victimised and battles gloriously waged. In other words, it recruits in the same way that any other armed group recruits, including the US military.

That means that when we also deploy our own militarised identity politics to narrate our response to terrorism, we inadvertently reinforce Isis’ message to its potential recruits. When British Prime Minister David Cameron talks about a “generational struggle” between Western values and Islamic extremism, he is assisting the militants’ own propaganda. When French President François Hollande talks of “a war which will be pitiless,” he is doing the same.

What is distinctive about Isis’ message is that it also offers a utopian and apocalyptic vision of an alternative society in the making. The reality of that alternative is, of course, oppression of women, enslavement of minorities and hatred of freedom.

But the message works, to some extent, because it claims to be an answer to real problems of poverty, authoritarian regimes and Western aggression. Significantly, it thrives in environments where other radical alternatives to a discredited status quo have been suppressed by government repression. What’s corrupting Isis’ volunteers is not ideology but by the end of ideology: They have grown up in an era with no alternatives to capitalist globalisation. The organisation has gained support, in part, because the Arab revolutions of 2011 were defeated, in many cases by regimes allied with and funded by the US.

The lesson of Isis is that war creates terrorism

After 14 years of the “war on terror,” we are no closer to achieving peace. The fault does not lie with any one administration but with the assumption that war can defeat terrorism. The lesson of Isis is that war creates terrorism.

After all, the organisation was born in the chaos and carnage that followed the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Russia and Iran have also played their role, propping up Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime – responsible for far more civilian deaths than Isis – and prolonging the war in Syria that enables the militant group to thrive.

Meanwhile, the alliances that we consider crucial to the war on terror have worked in Isis’ favour. The group’s sectarianism and funding have come from the Saudi and Gulf ruling elites, the West’s closest regional allies after Israel. And the groups that have been most effective in fighting Isis – the Kurdish militia – are designated as terrorists by Western governments because they are considered threats to our ally Turkey.

The incoherence of our response to Isis stems from our Islamophobia. Because we believe religious extremism is the underlying problem, we prop up Arab dictatorships that we think can help us contain this danger. Paradoxically, we support the very regimes that have enabled Isis’ rise, such as the Saudis, the most reactionary influence in the region.

With our airstrikes, we continue the cycle of violence and reinforce the militants’ narrative of a war by the West against Islam. Then, to top it all off, we turn away the refugees, whom we should be empowering to help transform the region. If we want to avoid another 14 years of failure, we need to try something else – and first, we need to radically rethink what we’ve been doing.

Kundnani is the author of The Muslims are Coming! Islamophobia, Extremism, and the Domestic War on Terror.

– Washington Post

Attorney-General finds NZBORA problem with Social Security bill

Chris Finlayson

18 March 2016

The Social Security Legislation Rewrite Bill limits the right to freedom from discrimination affirmed in section 19 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 in one respect, and that limitation cannot be justified under section 5 of NZBORA, Attorney-General Christopher Finlayson has reported.

In the section 7 Attorney-General report on the bill, Mr Finlayson says the provisions of the bill relating to advantageous treatment of the totally blind compared to people with other disabilities are not justifiable.

The bill rewrites the Social Security Act 1964, with the objective of improving the accessibility of the much-amended legislation. It also shifts the residential care provisions into a stand-alone act.

Mr Finlayson’s report says eligibility for benefits, and obligations on beneficiaries, are inherently discriminatory as they are based on drawing distinctions on a number of prohibited grounds of discrimination, including marital status, ethnic or national origins, disability, age, employment status, and family status.

“In my view, all but one of the distinctions made in the Bill are justifiable. Paid employment is considered the best opportunity for people to achieve social and economic well-being. Where it is appropriate, people should be supported into work, and those unable to work should be provided with suitable support,” Mr Finlayson says.

“I agree that achieving the best possible outcome for people at risk of long-term welfare dependency means appropriate assistance, support, and services under this Bill should be provided.”

The report says clause 33 of the bill provides that a person is entitled to the Supported Living Payment (SLP) if the person has restricted work capacity or is totally blind. People with disabilities other than total blindness must prove both their disability and the impact it has on their capacity to work; people who are totally blind must prove only that they are totally blind in order to be entitled to the SLP.

Mr Finlayson says the rights of people with disabilities other than total blindness are impaired as they are not entitled to the same additional support, or automatic entitlement to the SLP, as those with total blindness.

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