Is the deportation stance of New Zealand hypocritical?

Is the deportation stance of New Zealand hypocritical?

Newsroom Analysis by Laura Walters

Jacinda Ardern has called Australia’s deportation policy “corrosive” to the Trans-Tasman relationship; Winston Peters says it is a “festering sore.”

Is New Zealand being hypocritical given its own deportations to the Pacific?

The Coalition Government has staunchly opposed Australia’s deportation of Kiwis, but Pacific experts warn New Zealand could face pushback from its Pacific neighbours over its own deportation policy.

Pacific Policy and security experts who spoke to Newsroom saying that New Zealand’s domestic deportation policy has the potential to negatively affect its relationship with its Pacific neighbours.

Peters stands firm

But Foreign Minister Winston Peters is standing firm, saying New Zealand taxpayers would not want to bear the brunt of costs associated with keeping criminals in the country.

“In the end, all societies are accountable and policies that would force certain nations to be more responsible for their youth are surely not bad, because we’ve all got our problems. But we would not do that unless we knew the island nation could take them,” he said.

Like Australia and the United States, New Zealand deports people who have been convicted of crimes. Character and family links are taken into account after someone is issued with a deportation liability notice, before a final deportation decision is made. Potential deportees also have appeal rights.

Deportees’ emotions

But in some cases, deportees have lived in New Zealand for years, and consider the country their home.

Those who have dealt with deportees told Newsroom that some have not stepped foot in their country of birth since they were children, and no longer have family and cultural ties, and are at high risk of re-offending, especially with a lack of social services and reintegration programmes.

Experts say this puts pressure on small Pacific states, which often lack resources, and in some cases is adding to rising crime in the region.

Trans-Tasman relations

Last week, Ardern met Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison where she again raised Australia’s deportation policy.

“In my view, this issue has become corrosive in our relationship over time,” she said.

“I made it clear that New Zealand has no issue with Australia taking a dim view of newly arrived non-citizens committing crimes. But equally, the New Zealand people have a dim view of the deportation of people who move to Australia as children and have grown up there with often little or no lasting connection to here.”

In February last year, Police Commissioner Mike Bush said 44% of deportees forced out of Australia in the previous two years had re-offended.

A police spokesperson said that 1664 people were deported to New Zealand from Australia between January 1, 2015 and February 22, 2019.

Figures from Australia’s Department of Home Affairs showed that 907 people had their visas cancelled based on character requirements in the 2018 financial year, 453 of those were Kiwis.

And at December 31, 1285 people were held in Australia’s immigration detention facilities. Of these, 150 (11.7%) were New Zealanders.

INZ figures

Meanwhile, Immigration New Zealand (INZ) figures show that in the past five years, 1040 people have been deported to the Pacific from New Zealand.

Of the deportations, 400 followed criminal convictions, and 640 were for non-criminal reasons. During the 2018 financial year, 65 people were deported to the Pacific following convictions. The most common Pacific destinations for deportees are Samoa (145 in five years), Tonga (120) and Fiji (113).

In 2015, an article from the New Zealand Law Society said that INZ had shifted its compliance practice to actively issue deportation liability notices on visa holders, soon after a qualifying criminal conviction had been entered.

And a recent Vice documentary, Deportees of Tonga: Gangsters in Paradise, follows the lives of people deported to Tonga and the difficulty they faced reintegrating into a foreign culture. About 1000 deportees are currently thought to be in Tonga, out of a total population of 110,000.

New Zealand’s hypocrisy

Massey University Researcher and Managing Director of security consulting firm ‘Strategika,’ Jose Luis Sousa-Santos said that deportations from New Zealand to the Pacific had a significant impact on the deportees, and on the Pacific communities.

“It’s a bit hypocritical, in terms of our deportation strategy. We complain about how Australia handles it when we’re doing the exact same thing to the Pacific Island states, but (Pacific Islands) don’t have the same ability or capacity to deal with these issues.”

Sousa-Santos said it was “irresponsible” of New Zealand to deport young people who had lived in New Zealand most of their life, and expect them to reintegrate. Especially when those countries did not have the rehabilitation and welfare systems in place to support deportees.

Meanwhile, deportees often had few opportunities to make a living, and would have to resort to working the family land, just for sustenance and survival.

Many had grown up in urban areas, with no farming skills, and their access to labour mobility schemes in New Zealand and Australia had gone.

“In my view, this issue has become corrosive in our relationship over time.”

No links back home

Some deportees didn’t have connections and links back to family and community in the Pacific, and many didn’t speak the local language, Sousa-Santos said.

They were not seen by their host communities as Tongan or Samoan, but equally were not considered Kiwi.

Newsroom was unable to verify anecdotal reports of people being deported after being in New Zealand since childhood, but was told in one case a man deported to Tiuvalu in 2017 after release from prison had been in New Zealand since he was two years old.

“We’re not doing enough to prepare the communities where we are trying to reintegrate the deportees,” Sousa-Santos said.

“I think there’s quite a bit of hypocrisy, when you’re sending these young deportees with a criminal background and when they end up using criminal links in New Zealand to continue their criminal life – because that’s all they know – and we haven’t rehabilitated them. We are palming off the problem to the neighbours that don’t have the same resources we have.”

Life of crime

TNC Pacific Consulting Principal Tess Newton Cain agreed that New Zealand’s stance on Australia’s domestic policy, and its own deportation practices were at odds.

The impact on the small nations was significant, she said, adding that in particularly small island nations it could affect local law enforcement priorities and local economies.

Newton Cain, who has a background in Law and Criminology, said that she had seen the impacts on a person and their recidivism when there was a cultural disconnect.

Deportees might turn up with US$ 50, no-one to pick them up from the airport, no social services or welfare system, no family connections, little-to-no language skills, and the stigma associated with their offending.

If they did re-offend, they may not be able to afford a lawyer, and in Tonga they would not be eligible for legal aid.

Newton Cain said the issue was not black and white, and for some people going back to their roots could act as a circuit-breaker. It gave them the chance to reconnect with their culture and heritage, and live a life away from crime.

But both Sousa-Santos and Newton Cain said deportees had a high risk of re-offending.

Trans-National crime rises

Trans-national crime in the Pacific is on the rise, with news of large drug hauls – destined for Australia and New Zealand – routinely hitting the headlines.

One of the priorities of Winston Peters’ much-celebrated Pacific Reset has been a co-ordinated effort to crack down on trans-national crime.

The Boe Declaration, which came out of last year’s Pacific Islands Forum, also focuses on Trans-National crime. And earlier this month, police from New Zealand, Australia, Tonga and Fiji launched the Transnational Serious and Organised Crime Pacific Taskforce.

Jacinda Ardern visited Samoa, and other parts of the Pacific, during last year’s Pacific Mission, ahead of the official Pacific Reset. Photo: Sam Sachdeva.

But Sousa-Santos said New Zealand was investing in the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff, rather than programmes and systems to prevent the spread of crime in the Pacific.

Links to gangs

Deportees often had links to gangs and organised crime, which added a level of sophistication to crime in the Pacific.

They drove drug demand in small nations by creating a local customer base, and used their links to gangs in other countries. Deportee also facilitated the trade through the Pacific for American and Asian cartels, he said.

This put increasing pressure on Pacific law enforcement resources and created the need for a co-ordinated regional response.

Sousa-Santos argued the issue could be nipped in the bud with a rethink of New Zealand’s deportation policy and more targeted investment in the Pacific.

“By deporting young Pacific Island criminals back to the island states, we are not fixing the problem; we’re exacerbating the problem.”

While deportees weren’t the only cause of rising crime in the Pacific, they had exacerbated the problem.

Foreign Policy impacts

In the wake of the Pacific Reset, the coalition Government has framed the Pacific Islands as having close political and cultural links to New Zealand.

“In that context, New Zealand needs to think about how domestic policy impacts what we say is important in terms of our foreign relationships,” Newton Cain said.

Domestic policy and practices had the potential to negatively affect New Zealand’s foreign relations, she said.

Sousa-Santos described the current response as “fractured.”

“We will see a Pacific pushback on this issue. There are now bigger players in the Pacific, and in recent years New Zealand’s relevance has been questioned. We can’t rest on our laurels.”

“In the end, all societies are accountable and policies that would force certain nations to be more responsible for their youth are surely not bad, because we’ve all got our problems, but we would not do that unless we knew the island nation could take them.”

It would take an all-of-government approach to fix the problem, which should consist of a complete overhaul of the deportation strategy, he said.

Our responsibility

Principal of immigration law firm Woods Fletcher & Associates, Richard Fletcher, said that New Zealand had to accept some responsibility for the state of affairs in the Pacific.

New Zealand had obligations to its region – especially former territories, and that included considering the impact of deporting people to small island states, he said.

INZ needed to deal with deportations on a case-by-case basis, and not prematurely issue deportation notices.

A ‘Festering Sore’

Earlier this week, Peters said Australia’s deportation policy was a “festering sore.”

“When you expel someone from Australia, and the person has never lived in New Zealand but perchance they live in a realm country with special century-old relationship, namely with Cook Islands, is now judged to be a New Zealander, you’re at the extreme end of credibility,” Peters said in an interview with Sky News Australia.

“All we are saying to our Australian friends is that you have a very similar jurisprudential background as the New Zealand people do. That’s not fair and we want you to acknowledge it,” he said.

Peters’ comments referred to the case of Wichman Uriaere, who was deported to New Zealand, despite never having never been here. He holds a New Zealand passport because he is originally from the Cook Islands.

When asked whether New Zealand’s stance on Australia was hypocritical given our own deportations to the Pacific, Peters told Newsroom New Zealand was not transferring the problem because it came from the Pacific in the first place.

“You send a young person over here, who doesn’t respect our law, and is in the death game of selling drugs, and hard drugs at that. One of the penalties has got to be the cost of being caught, and when it’s finished – deportation. I think would have a hard job telling the New Zealand taxpayer that we should bear the brunt of that cost into the future,” he said.

“In the end, all societies are accountable and policies that would force certain nations to be more responsible for their youth are surely not bad, because we’ve all got our problems, but we would not do that unless we knew the island nation could take them.”

Greens’ Stand

Green Party MP Golriz Ghahraman said Australia’s Policy lacked context, and consideration of the intent of the law and the principles of justice.

“It is a really good example of a real knee-jerk reaction, letter-of-the-law application, devoid of context, and it ends up creating injustice,” she said.

Ghahraman said that she had not seen evidence of people without family and cultural links being deported to the Pacific from New Zealand, but that practice was not representative of the intent of the law and would not achieve justice.

New Zealand needed to recognise it was a Pacific nation, and Auckland was a major Pacific capital, and with that came responsibilities, she said.

The above Report has been published under a Special Arrangement with Newsroom.


Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison meeting with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at Government House in Auckland. Photo: Pool/Diego Opatowski/AFP

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