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NEW ZEALAND 2021

Criminal detention facilities continued to be used to detain people seeking asylum. Official investigations highlighted ongoing concerns about conditions in detention and prison facilities. Following evidence of human rights violations in a women’s prison, the government issued an apology and ordered improvements. Reviews of childcare and protection services continued.

Refugees’ and migrants’ rights

Asylum seekers continued to be detained solely on immigration grounds. Research revealed that asylum seekers experienced a number of human rights violations while detained.1 In July, the government announced an independent review into the practice of detaining asylum seekers in criminal detention facilities solely on immigration grounds.

Detainees’ rights

Prisoners at a high security facility at Waikeria Prison held a protest which ended in January. The detention conditions in this prison had caused concern for many years.

In May, the Chief Ombudsman announced an investigation into the Department of Corrections’ response to repeated calls for reform to improve conditions for detainees. In June, the Office of the Ombudsman published inspection reports of Christchurch Men’s Prison and Whanganui Prison highlighting the “undignified and barren conditions of prisons”.

Reports into Auckland Women’s Correctional Facility detailed serious human rights concerns. In February, a District Court Judge found the practice of requiring prisoners to lie down on the floor in order to receive meals was “excessive, degrading and fundamentally inhumane”. The judge also found the use of pepper spray against a woman alone in her cell, unarmed and faced by six officers in full body armour, to be excessive use of force. Following this case, the Minister of Corrections issued an official public apology in March and ordered a programme of work, largely focused on women’s prisons.

In October, a report by the Office of the Inspectorate into women in prisons stated, among other concerns, that “generally, women’s prisons are not therapeutic environments conducive to rehabilitation and reintegration”.

Children’s rights

In April, the Waitangi Tribunal reported on the significant disparity between the number of Māori and non-Māori children being taken into state care, and that these disparities were a direct consequences of Crown intrusion. The Tribunal recommended that “the Crown steps back from further intrusion into what was reserved to Māori under Te Tiriti [o Waitangi] / the Treaty [of Waitangi], and allow Māori to reclaim their space”.

In June, the Office of the Children’s Commissioner released reports raising serious concerns about the safety and well-being of children in the Epuni childcare and protection residence.


  1. Aotearoa New Zealand: Please Take Me to a Safe Place: The Imprisonment of Asylum Seekers in Aotearoa New Zealand (Index: ASA 32/4113/2021), 18 May