New Zealanders held in immigration detention

New Zealanders in Immigration Detention
Comparison of Iranian and New Zealand men held in Australian Immigration detention between January 2021 and December 2021. (Source: Dept of Home Affairs)
Date last modified: 12 April 2022

New Zealanders are among the highest number of any nationality held in Australian immigration detention centres.

As at 31 December 2021 275, or 18.5 per cent, of the 1,489 people in immigration detention were from New Zealand. There were 252 New Zealand men compared to <145 Iranian men. Only 23 New Zealand women are detained in immigration detention. In the 12 months to March 2021 over 700 New Zealanders have been deported.

In March 2021 news broke that a 15 year old boy was amongst a group of New Zealanders deported from Australia the previous week. Little detail has been made public about the teen other than that he is being held in a quarantine facility and is receiving support from Oranga Tamariki.

In May 2018 it was revealed that a New Zealand youth had been held in Immigration detention since March 2018. He was released in July 2018 and returned to his family in Sydney after winning his appeal. The New Zealand government has criticised Home Affairs Minister Dutton for detaining a minor with the intention of deporting him.

The number of New Zealanders held in immigration detention has grown dramatically after an amendment to Section 501 of the Migration Act (1958) in December 2014. A non-citizen sentenced 12 months or more, whether served or suspended, can now have their visa cancelled and be deported. The legislation is retrospective, and includes cumulative sentencing totalling 12 months.

Deportation orders can take more than 6 months to be processed. Some detainees have no criminal convictions but are members of “bikie” gangs. Others have a drink driving offence or have breached bail conditions. Their community ties are not taken into account, such as:

  • having arrived in Australia as a minor
  • time spent living in Australia
  • having an Australian partner and Australian children
  • working or operating a business
  • owning a home.

Oz Kiwi does not condone criminal behaviour. However, being held in immigration detention can deny people their human rights, such as access to a lawyer, seeing their family, or delay processing of their appeal.

The Migration Act enables the Minister for Immigration to grant detainees a Bridging Visa (BVE) and home detention, if they are not a flight risk. Unfortunately, very few New Zealanders are granted a Bridging Visa. The Minister may be reticent to exercise such discretion for violent offences or sexual crimes against children.

Download a PDF of the statistics for:

New Zealanders in Immigration detention January 2021 to December 2021

Source: Department of Home Affairs, Immigration detention statistics

Key visa cancellation statistics

Information for people arrested or detained in Australia


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