State Of It: Cunliffe Must Explain Why He Abandoned Support For Asylum-Seeker's Plight
Editorial by Selwyn Manning
Prior to David Cunliffe being promoted to his Minister of Immigration position, he met as an MP with asylum-seeker, Thomas Yadegary. The Labour MP interviewed
Mr Yadegary, supported his plight to seek refuge from Iran in New Zealand, and wrote to him on a Parliamentary Service
letterhead indicating his ongoing support for his refugee status application. (Graphic by Scoop's Lyndon Hood.)
However, that support was withdrawn once David Cunliffe accepted his Immigration ministerial warrant. Why? Surely the
Minister must answer this question.
Another notable Labour minister, Phil Goff, had in 2004 also written to the then Associate Immigration Minister, Damien
O'Connor, seeking reconsideration of Thomas Yadegary's case.
But those appeals on behalf of a man, who's religious conviction places him in danger of being persecuted in Iran by the
current fundamentalist regime, had been relegated to history once David Cunliffe took over as Minister of Immigration.
In recent months, the credibility and standing of those engaged in Parliament has taken a severe pounding. This
metamorphosis of David Cunliffe's character, that once considered Mr Yadegary's plea for refuge worthy and vital, to
that of apparent indifference, is unbecoming of David Cunliffe – an MP and minister who many consider to be a rising
talent within the Labour-led Cabinet.
If this incarceration matter is not satisfactorily concluded by balancing human rights principles with legal process,
then not only Parliament's credibility will suffer but also that of the Executive, the Minister's sincerity will be
questioned, and Mr Yadegary's right to a life of liberty free of unjust persecution will, on balance, be stolen from
It must be remembered that Ministers are not merely representatives of their respective departments and ministries, but
primarily representatives of the public interest, the national interest and that of the New Zealand way - in this case,
that national-condition, and the buck, stops with David Cunliffe.
Scoop Audio (UPDATE):
National Party's Lockwood Smith asked the Minister of Immigration questions in Parliament today regarding the refugee
applicant Thomas Yadegary who is held in Mt Eden Prison until he signs his own deportation passport papers. Answering is
Associate Minister Clayton Cosgrove on behalf of David Cunliffe.
To follow are sections of a letter (and links to pdf's of the letter) dated November 11 2004 where David Cunliffe spells out exactly why Thomas Yadegary ought to be considered a refugee.
Letter From David Cunliffe To Then Associate Immigration minister, Damien O'Connor, dated November 11 2004.
… "I am aware that Mr Yadegary has recently been detained in custody and that a letter from Mr Yadegary's local MP, Hon
Phil Goff, requesting reconsideration has been received by your office.
"I write on the basis of support for that letter and respectfully request your urgent consideration on three grounds: The presence of conflicting decisions in findings of the Refugee Status Appeals despite strong similarity between
appellant cases. The belief Mr Yadegary holds that he will be subject to persecution The potential impact on community relations should the case become salient The general character of Mr Yadegary as perceived by the community."
"The Authority (Refugee Status Authority) accepts that Mr Yadegary is a committed Christian who will 'spread the light'
amongst family and friends and yet suggests that he is not at serious risk of harm.
"Recent evidence indicates those who actively display their new faith in public, especially by proselytising, can expect
to face severe repression in Iran.
"Thus, Mr Yadegary has a plausible case however the RAA finding of his appeal is at odds with the following Refugee
Status Appeals Authority precedents. (ref. RSAA Appeal 72323/00)."
"New Zealand enjoys considerable religious and political freedom. The diverse ethnic and religious communities generally
share positive and harmonious relations. There is a strong public interest in maintaining the situation. There is a risk
that deporting Mr Yadegary to Iran to face significant risk of persecution could excite division between Christian and
Moslem communities within New Zealand.
"Based on interviews with Mr Yadegary and several of his neighbours, Mr Yadegary presents as well known and liked in the
local community and appears to be of good character. He is working in a small successful business in my electorate."
ALSO:GPJA - Cunliffe Accepted – Now Rejects – Thomas Yadegary
GPJA - Labour’s Own Guantánamo Bay – Here in Mt Eden
The Prime Minister Helen Clark was questioned on the Thomas Yadegary case at the post-Cabinet press conference on