Lobby group urges Sydney deportee to get in touch

Christmas Island detention centre (Photo: Getty)

08 December 2016

John Edens – Stuff

A lobby group has urged the family of a New Zealander arrested during a deportation transfer at Sydney airport to get in touch.

The Oz Kiwi group is one of several organisations, legal groups, and social networks, trying to improve the lot of Kiwis in Australia, including New Zealanders subject to deportation under the character test “section 501” of the Migration Act.

Oz Kiwi committee deputy chair Joanne Cox says the group struggles to get any information on detainees from the authorities.

Instead, the group relies on a network of family support, lawyers and non-government organisations to represent deportees during the visa cancellation process or the appeal process.

Cox said it was likely the man arrested in Sydney on Wednesday was sent to Christmas Island but there was no way to know without direct contact from him, his family, or a lawyer.

Many offenders deported from Australia have spent time in detention centres like this one at Christmas Island. (Photo: Scott Disher/Fairfax NZ)

Authorities in Australia have declined to comment on the man’s whereabouts.

9 News reported the man, 22, had served time in Silverwater jail in New South Wales and was on his way to Christmas Island on Wednesday when he was arrested.

Cox urged the man, or his family, to make contact with the group if they wished to discuss legal options.

Most of the detainees in the island centre – which lies closer to Indonesia than Australia – were young men under the age of 45, she said. Some of them had not committed serious crimes but had fallen foul of the new legislation by accumulating 12-month sentences from, for example, unpaid fines.

“I’d guess he has been sent there [Christmas Is.] while deportation is being processed or he is appealing.

“We want to get them some legal help.

‘”The underlying thing is we want to advise legal avenues for the families.

“If the mainland jails’ detention centres are full they send the young and fit men to Christmas Island. This is a waste of time and money. They should just send them to New Zealand.

“We know they wait between six and 12 months to have their deportation processed.

“According to New South Wales police, on Thursday, the man was not charged after his arrest at the airport.

“[He] was subject to a mental health assessment at hospital and returned to immigration custody,” a statement said.

Stuff asked the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection about the man’s condition, whether he had been transferred to an immigration centre and whether his family had been informed of his whereabouts

A spokeswoman said the agency had no further comment on the matter.

On Wednesday, the border agency said the man’s visa was cancelled under section 501 of the Migration Act.

He was in immigration custody after his visa had been cancelled on character grounds, when NSW Police were called because the detainee threatened self-harm at the airport, according to reports.

Hundreds of New Zealanders, many of them convicted criminals, continue to be detained in Australia.

At the end of 2014, the Australian government changed the law and introduced the section 501 character test, a mandatory visa cancellation policy for any foreign nationals convicted of a crime carrying a sentence of 12 months’ jail or more.

The New Zealand government introduced a new law, the Returning Offenders Act, to manage the repatriation of deported Kiwis. The New Zealander Department of Corrections has FAQs for returnees from Australia.

When a visa is cancelled, people are served with a revocation notice giving them 28 days to leave Australia. If they fail to leave, they can be arrested for being unlawfully in the country and this kickstarts the deportation process.

If a New Zealander in Australia has their visa cancelled, there are several options for appealing.

Cox said the process of appealing can be lengthy, upwards of six months, but an estimated 30 to 40 per cent of appeals against deportation were successful, she said.

People who appeal can, in some circumstances, get bridging visas allowing them to continue to live in the community in Australia while their appeal is processed.

“Deportees can get bridging visas. They can appeal from New Zealand. That’d be a better option, but for those who have been here [Australia] since childhood that’s not always a good option.”

Cox said many New Zealanders living indefinitely in Australia on temporary visas and people who moved there before an earlier law change in 2001 and did not get citizenship were being caught out.

New Zealanders are the largest group held as detainees in immigration centres in Australia.

At the end of October, according to Australian Border Force figures, there were 1,403 people in detention, including 1150 in immigration centres on the mainland and 253 on Christmas Island.

The total number of New Zealanders in detention was 184 at the end of October – 13 per cent of the immigration detention total. The next largest groups of detainees are people from Iran, Vietnam, and Sri Lanka.

[Read the Stuff article].

Related

Find more about New Zealanders being deported.

Information for people arrested or detained in Australia

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