The New Zealand Law Society | Te Kāhui Ture o Aotearoa welcomes the suite of documents recently published by MBIE’s Refugee Status Unit (RSU) to assist individuals who are looking to claim refugee and protection status in New Zealand.
The work follows an independent review of the RSU’s processes, to ensure that “the overall systems for making refugee and protection status determinations are fit for purpose, support quality decisions, and are efficient, fair and timely”. The review made a number of recommendations to increase transparency and certainty in the RSU systems and process.
The Law Society has a keen interest in improving access to justice, and members of the Law Society’s Immigration & Refugee Law Committee have been part of an MBIE-led cross-sector Working Group, which was set up in 2020 to determine how best to implement the recommendations. The Law Society was a key contributor to the discussions and provided extensive feedback to ensure the proposed new processes are clear, workable and transparent and enhance claimants’ access to justice. The Law Society’s key recommendations included:
- setting longer timeframes to ensure claimants have sufficient time to prepare documents and evidence to support their claim;
- introducing an option for claimants in detention to opt out of expedited determination processes if they require more time to prepare documents and evidence to support their claim; and
- scheduling interviews over two half-days to reduce the stress and pressure on claimants.
We are pleased to note that the Law Society’s recommendations were accepted by MBIE and incorporated in the final documents.
Documents to support the new processes have now been published and include:
- the Refugee Status Unit Practice Note, which provides comprehensive guidance to claimants and their representatives;
- the Claiming Refugee and Protection Status in New Zealand booklet, which sets out claimants’ rights and responsibilities and provides an overview of the RSU determination process in clear and accessible language;
- the Written Statement Guidelines which contain information to assist claimants with preparing a written statement in support of their claim; and
- updated forms and letters to align with the RSU’s new processes and timeframes.
The documents will be reviewed by the Working Group annually to ensure they remain up to date and fit for purpose.
The Law Society thanks Immigration & Refugee Law Committee members John McBride and Megan Williams for their work on behalf of the Law Society on the Working Group.
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