We campaigned for the fair treatment of New Zealanders living in Australia

New Zealanders held in immigration detention

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

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

As at 31 August 2023 167, or 15.8 per cent, of the 1,056 people in immigration detention were from New Zealand. There were 149 New Zealand men compared to 87 Iranian men. Only 18 woman from New Zealand are in immigration detention.

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.

Why are so many New Zealanders deported?

New Zealanders can reside indefinitely on the Special Category Visa (SCV). The SCV is a temporary visa under the Migration Act and did not offer a pathway to citizenship until April 2023.

The number of New Zealanders held in immigration detention grew 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 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:

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.

Changes to deportation of New Zealanders

Citizenship & Immigration Minister Andrew Giles has directed the department of Home Affairs to take a “common sense” approach to the deportation of New Zealanders. The new directive came into effect on 03 March 2023 but will not be applied retrospectively.

More consideration will be given to:

Oz Kiwi thanks Minister Giles for making this very positive reform.


Download a PDF of the statistics for:

New Zealanders in Immigration detention September 2022 to August 2023

Source: Department of Home Affairs, Immigration detention statistics

Key visa cancellation statistics

Information for people arrested or detained in Australia


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