Alternatives to Detention in New Zealand

Law providing a mandate to consider alternatives to detention

Section 315 of New Zealand’s Immigration Act 2009 outlines specific conditions that may be applied to a person who would otherwise be subject to detention, including reporting, guarantors and undertaking actions towards case resolution.

Immigration officer and person liable for arrest and detention may in his/her absolute discretion, decide that instead of detention, persons can

(a) reside at a specified place;

(b) report to a specified place at specified periods or times in a specified manner;

(c) provide a guarantor who is responsible for— (i) ensuring the person complies with any requirements agreed under this section; and (ii) reporting any failure by the person to comply with those requirements;

(d) if the person is a claimant, attend any required interview with a refugee and protection officer or hearing with the Tribunal;

(e) undertake any other action for the purpose of facilitating the person’s deportation or departure from New Zealand.

Policy providing for children to be detained in exceptional circumstances or as a matter of last resort

There is no legislated presumption against the detention of minors in New Zealand. However, minors are only detained in exceptional circumstances or as a matter of last resort, according to the Immigration New Zealand (INZ) Operational Manual. The Immigration Act 2009  (IA 2009) does provide some protections. Minors must have a responsible adult to represent their interests (s. 375); be able to express his/her views on detention; and have these views considered at any proceedings affecting him/her (s. 377).

Individual Undertakings

Appear at immigration hearings and interviews and undertake acts to assist case resolution:  

Section 315 of the IA 2009 states that the officer may in his/her absolute discretion, decide that instead of detention, persons can (d) if the person is a claimant, attend any required interview with a refugee and protection officer or hearing with the Tribunal: (e) undertake any other action for the purpose of facilitating the person’s deportation or departure from New Zealand. 

Monitoring: Reporting requirements and conditions for non-compliance

Section 315 of the New Zealand IA 2009 states that the officer may in his/her absolute discretion, decide that instead of detention, persons can (a) reside at a specified place; (b) report to a specified place at specified periods or times in a specified manner; (c) provide a guarantor who is responsible for— (i) ensuring the person complies with any requirements agreed under this section; and (ii) reporting any failure by the person to comply with those requirements.

Monitoring: Directed residence

In relation to open reception centres for asylum seekers it is important to note that the NZ model is more semi-open rather than open. For example, asylum seekers having significantly less freedom than Convention refugees at the Mangere Accomodation Centre. Also some asylum seekers are put into penal institutions where their freedom is effectively curtailed (Sliding scale of detention options – detention at a correctional facility, detention at the Mangere  Accommodation centre or conditional release).

Find out more: 

Sarah Mares and Jon Jureidini, “Psychiatric Assessment of Children and Families in Immigration Detention – Clinical, Administrative and Ethical Issues,” Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health 28, no. 6 (2004): 520-26.

There are alternatives cover

Over the past five years, the IDC has undertaken a program of research to identify and describe a number of positive alternatives to immigration detention (‘alternatives’) that respect fundamental rights, are less expensive and are equally or more effective than traditional border controls.

This research, entitled There are alternatives, provides readers with the guidance needed to successfully avoid unnecessary detention and to ensure community options are as effective as possible.

This text was published in September 2015.