India travel ban: Human Rights Commission calls for more transparency from Government

The Human Rights Commission is calling for more transparency from the Government.
The Human Rights Commission is calling for more transparency from the Government. Photo credit: Facebook / Getty

New Zealand's Human Rights Commission is calling for more transparency after the Government decided to temporarily ban arrivals from India.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern ordered flights from India to be suspended from Sunday 4pm until April 28.

The number of COVID-19 cases in managed isolation has spiked over the recent weeks and a large proportion of those come from India.

"I want to emphasise that while arrivals with COVID from India have prompted this measure, we are looking at how we manage high-risk points of departure generally," Ardern said on Thursday.

"This is not a permanent arrangement, but rather a temporary measure until we are able to better understand and manage the current situation we are facing and see if there are ways to reduce the risk that actually travellers themselves are facing."

But the Human Rights Commission is calling for more transparency from the Government.

"Temporarily banning New Zealanders from returning home from India is a significant limitation on their freedom of movement. Clear justification for the limitation on this basic right is vital. Regular review of the suspension is also crucial," Chief Human Rights Commissioner Paul Hunt said.

"I'm calling for more transparency from the Government about the decision to suspend travel from India for New Zealanders for the next 14 days.

"While a public health emergency is a justification for limits to be placed on the free movement of people, any limitation on the rights of New Zealanders to return home must be clearly justified by the Government in accordance with its domestic and international human rights obligations."   

Earlier this year, Ardern shut down suggestions that New Zealand would restrict Kiwi citizens from entering the country.

"We have to let people who have a legal right to live here - such as our own citizens - to come home, otherwise you're making them stateless," she said in January.

Ardern said she couldn't think of a country that has closed its borders entirely.

"The UK, like New Zealand, is still allowing their citizens and residents to return - I don't know of any country that isn't allowing that."

The United Nations Human Rights Committee "considers that there are a few, if any, circumstances in which deprivation of the right to enter one's own country could be reasonable".

Under the Bill of Rights, all Kiwis have a right to come home.

But COVID Response Minister Chris Hipkins told The AM Show on Friday that the suspension was justified due to the spike in positive cases coming from India.

The percentage of arrivals from India testing positive in managed isolation had been around 2-5 percent but has shot up to 10 percent in the recent weeks.

"This is a temporary restriction and it is important to note it is a temporary restriction. It is not a decision that we took lightly," Hipkins said.