Migration Newsletter 502 (Deportation of NZ citizens)
A slightly different take on the character laws:
New Zealand Angry About Australia Deporting its Citizens
A new consequence of Australia’s stronger character test has emerged in the form of the government of New Zealand! In recent weeks, politicians in New Zealand have labelled the retrospective, mandatory test as “out of line with the vaunted special relationship between our two countries”. In light of Australia’s strict approach towards New Zealand citizens, what incentive does New Zealand now have to maintain its own relatively positive treatment of Australians?
There are currently around 200 New Zealand citizens being held in seven separate detention centres in Australia awaiting deportation, including on Christmas Island. It has also been reported that another 406 New Zealanders have had their visas cancelled and 95 have been deported in 2015.
The issue has grabbed public attention since the death of Junior Togatuki, a 23 year-old New Zealand citizen who had lived in Australia since the age of 4. Mr Togatuki, who had mental health issues, died recently in solitary confinement in Goulburn’s Supermax prison. He had completed his prison sentence, but was awaiting deportation. There are many similar cases of New Zealand citizens who arrived as children, have families in Australia and are at risk of deportation. Once deported, many have no links or support in New Zealand. Outside of migration consideration lie many welfare issues – are citizens of New Zealand simply left at an airport in country where they have no friends or family? New Zealand certainly seems to think so.
Concern is also rife over the perception of double punishment. When a New Zealand citizen commits an offence in Australia, they will usually first serve a prison sentence for the criminal aspect of the crime, and after completion, be taken into immigration detention while they await deportation. If a person has served their time, should their crime be forgiven?
New Zealand is currently pushing for the threshold at which the mandatory consideration of visa cancellation is triggered to be changed – currently, visa holders who commit a criminal offence and sentenced to at least 1 year of imprisonment are being detained and deported. To give this some context, Queenslanders can currently be imprisoned for up to five years for the crime of defacing property with graffiti.
On 30 September 2015, New Zealand achieved the small concession of an information-sharing agreement – Australia will now share information with New Zealand in relation to criminals being deported. The arrangement will provide New Zealand with up to six months’ advance notice of potential upcoming deportations. The arrangement will give information that will help New Zealand better manage the return of New Zealand citizens such as criminal conviction records, summary of offences, case history, gang connections, fingerprints and photographs. This is a significant improvement on what Australia has previously been able to provide.
While the current character laws are frightening, they can be fought! A slew of litigation has commenced against the decisions made by the Minister, and we expect much more to follow. See our experienced immigration lawyers immediately for legal advice on +61 73229 4027.