Labour Party MP Kelvin Davis has hit out at the number of Kiwis held in Australian detention centres. (Photo: Michael Cunningham)
Nicholas Jones – New Zealand Herald 1 Monday Aug 2016
The detention of Kiwis living in Australia could be part of a push to “purify” the country, Labour’s Corrections spokesman Kelvin Davis says.
Davis was speaking after new figures show the number of New Zealanders held in detention centres like that on Christmas Island at 199.
There are a total of 1577 people held, including 175 Iranians held, and 142 from Vietnam.
Davis questioned why many of the New Zealanders had to be locked up while they appealed their visa cancellation.
“There are a whole heap of tools they could use to achieve their policy – whatever that policy is, I don’t know, the purification of Australia maybe,” Davis told Radio New Zealand.
“They pull out the fattest and bluntest tool to whack Kiwis over the head.”
Many of the New Zealanders held in detention centres are of Maori descent, alarming the Iwi n Aus group and Maori Party.
Pressed on what he meant by “purification”, Davis said Australia was “trying the clean the place out of people they don’t want”.
The New Zealand Government has boosted funding to Corrections and support services to try and settle deportees who are returned.
Prime Minister John Key hosted his Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull in Auckland last October, and pushed for the threshold at which Kiwis were deported to be softened.
That should be done in recognition of the special relationship the two countries have, Mr Key argued.
However, Mr Turnbull declined to do so, saying it was Australia’s “absolutely legitimate sovereign right” to revoke visas should the holder commit a crime.
He promised to put more resources into the appeal process so it could be carried out more quickly, and to clear a backlog that had resulted from the law change in December 2014.
That allowed the Australian Government to cancel the visa of people who had been jailed for 12 months of more (cumulative), or failed a character test.But the number of New Zealanders held in detention centres has not declined significantly since then.
In October 2015 there were 213 Kiwis held, compared to the most recent number of 199.
People in Australian immigration detention as at 30 June 2016:
New Zealand 199
Sri Lanka 94
United Kingdom 53
[Read the NZ Herald article]