Report on an announced inspection of Māngere Refugee Resettlement Centre under the Crimes of Torture Act 1989

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Foreword

The following report has been prepared in my capacity as a National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) under the Crimes of Torture Act 1989 (COTA). The COTA gives effect to the United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT), ratified by Aotearoa New Zealand in 2007. My function under the COTA is to examine, and make any recommendations that I consider appropriate to improve, the treatment and conditions of detained persons in places of detention, including approved premises under the Immigration Act 2009. This report examines the treatment and conditions of people detained in the Māngere Refugee Resettlement Centre (the Centre).

The Centre was rebuilt as part of the New Zealand Refugee Resettlement Strategy and became operational in June 2016.[1] The Centre has 264 beds in eight accommodation blocks.

The Centre principally provides accommodation to individuals and families who have arrived in Aotearoa New Zealand under the Refugee Quota programme (quota refugees).[2] At the time of the inspection, Aotearoa New Zealand was in COVID-19 Alert Level 2 and the numbers of quota refugees living in the Centre was lower than usual due to significant COVID-19 related border restrictions. 

The Centre also accommodated people detained under Part 9 of the Immigration Act 2009 (by ‘warrants of commitment’),[3] or required to reside there under Residence and Reporting Requirements Agreements (RRR Agreements).

At the time of the inspection there were no people detained under warrants of commitment. There were four people (referred to as ‘residents’ in this report) under RRR Agreements who were required to reside at the Centre.[4]  These residents were within the purview of my inspection, as there were substantial barriers to their ability to leave the facility at will.

I authorised my Inspectors to conduct a two-day inspection of the facility in June 2020, using defined criteria to assess the treatment residents were experiencing, and their living conditions.

Good practice

Overall, the Centre was well run and my Inspectors found a number of positive practices which were to be commended.

  • Residents and staff reported that the Centre was a safe and secure place to be in.
  • My Inspectors observed positive and respectful interactions between staff and residents.
  • Interpreters were provided for residents who did not speak, read, or write in English. Key informational posters and messages were displayed in several different languages.
  • There were no instances of use of force in the Centre.
  • Residents’ accommodation was of an adequate standard and reasonable accommodation was provided for people with disabilities.

Areas for improvement

However, there were some matters that needed attention.

  • The amount of the weekly allowance provided to residents should be reviewed to ensure it is fair and reasonable in relation to residents’ food and other essential living costs.[5]
  • Over-the-counter pain relief medication was not provided at the Centre. Residents had to purchase medication from a pharmacy or supermarket, or go to a GP or hospital which could delay access. Staff noted that this process could be impractical and resource-intensive, especially after-hours.
  • There were no curtains in the communal kitchen and lounge areas, which could compromise the privacy of residents.
  • Residents had a varied understanding of the formal complaints process.
  • Residents under a RRR Agreement did not have clear and consistent information about the leave procedures that applied to them, including the consequences of breaching the conditions of their RRR Agreements.
  • Residents had limited access to activities, training and employment. To promote residents’ mental, emotional, spiritual and physical wellbeing, I consider it necessary for the Centre to offer tailored activities and training.

In conclusion, I wish to express my appreciation to the managers and staff at the Centre and Immigration New Zealand for the full co-operation they extended to my Inspectors. I also welcome the positive response to my report and wish to highlight that Immigration New Zealand reported that they had already made good progress implementing my recommendations and observations in this report.

 

[1]     For more information about New Zealand’s Refugee Resettlement Strategy see https://www.immigration.govt.nz/about-us/what-we-do/our-strategies-and-projects/refugee-resettlement-strategy (accessed 4 September 2020).

[3]     Section 315 of the Immigration Act 2009 provides for the detention of ‘liable persons’  under a ‘warrant of commitment’. See http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/2009/0051/latest/DLM1440303.html (accessed 18 September 2020).

[4]     Section 316 of the Immigration Act 2009, Part 9.

[5]     Residents were given an $85 weekly allowance which was expected to cover a large range of costs, including groceries, phone bills, and menstrual products.

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