An international delegation visited New Zealand over the week of April 3 – April 7, exploring ways alternatives to detention for children could be expanded.
Delgates included Dr. Robyn Sampson, Research Coordinator for the IDC, Ms Michelle Ferns of the Refugee Council of Australia, and Mr Chak Ng who worked with unaccompanied refugee minors for many years at Lutheran Community Services Northwest and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.
The visit included meetings with eight Members of Parliament, senior Immigration staff, refugee settlement service providers, child rights groups, members of IDC and APRRN, and civil society groups.
Ms Michelle Ferns, Hon Chester Borrows – Deputy Speaker & National MP for Whanganui, Dr. Robyn Sampson and Mr Chak Ng in Wellington
The delegation voiced their deep concern for children held in immigration detention centres in the region, and highlighted the positive development of alternatives to detention for unaccompanied minors in countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.
This proposal is designed to make greater strategic use of limited resettlement places, to increase the impact resettlement can achieve.
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.
Mr Ng was able to draw from his significant expertise on unaccompanied children resettlement to answer the many detailed questions raised about the ‘nuts and bolts’ of this proposal.
The work follows on from previous visits from the IDC and the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN) aimed at building awareness of refugee issues in our region, and highlighting our particular concern for children held in immigration detention.