Michael Woodhouse’s dreadful asylum seeker dilemma


He is a criminal and he knows it. William Nduku used to be a henchman of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. Whilst working for Mr Mugabe’s secret police, Mr Nduku committed or has been an accomplice to crimes so ghastly that if convicted in New Zealand, he would have no chance of parole, be under the highest level of security and probably require someone to watch just in case he commits suicide. Rape, torture and murder are just a few of the crimes he has committed.

Now Mr Nduku claims to be turning a leaf. He says he is remorseful for crimes that he says were committed under duress. And he wants to be a refugee in New Zealand.

But if he goes back to Zimbabwe, he WILL be executed. It will probably be after a prolonged and extreme bout of torture. And it is contrary to the legal obligations New Zealand has in human rights law to send someone back to a country where their death is a certainty.

This puts the Minister of Immigration, Michael Woodhouse in a dreadful bind. The man he is considering letting in is a known criminal who has committed appalling offences. But as New Zealand cannot legally deport him back to Zimbabwe, that effectively leaves him stuck. I think with fair certainty we can say no other country will even want to know about his case, much less consider him.

I say we permit him to stay, but he should have restrictions placed on him that reflect his unique case. His long term future in New Zealand should be wholly contingent on him meeting criteria that would be unique in New Zealand immigration:

  1. The rights accorded to him under New Zealand law will be different from those accorded to New Zealand citizens in that the restrictions applicable to him would not be able to be used on N.Z. citizens, permanent residents and those in the process of becoming one of these two criteria
  2. That he be required to submit a full report of the crimes he committed in Zimbabwe
  3. That – at least until authorities are satisfied he poses no threat – he report to the Police as and when required
  4. That permission be needed to travel within New Zealand – keep friends close, keep potential threats even closer

To some people the above measures will seem excessively tough. Stiff cheese. We are going by the word of a confessed criminal who needs to demonstrate he is genuine about turning a new leaf.

To some people the above measures will seem not tough enough. And some of you will say send him back to Zimbabwe – do you want New Zealand to be complicit in the certain and most likely extremely violent death of someone.

If we do let him stay, there are also a host of other issues that make this an exceptionally tough call. He will need a support network as the community reaction is going to be hostile, and he will not know anyone or anything about New Zealand. He is going to be a pariah in the Zimbabwean expat community – I cannot imagine after all the regime crimes that he helped to perpetrate, them wanting a bar of him. Getting a job and holding it down with the eyes of his boss, fellow staff and clients watching his every step might be mission impossible.

I am not a National supporter and I think Mr Woodhouse has been a mediocre Minister of Immigration, but just this once I do sympathize with him. Damned if he does. Damned if he does not.

Good luck.

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