Australia asked not to turn New Zealand into ‘penal colony’
A Maori leader has demanded that Australia stop deporting violent criminals to New Zealand. Many of them are “products” of Australian society who have no ties to New Zealand, he argued.
“New Zealand has got to stop being the dumping ground for Australian criminals,” Matthew Tukaki, the executive chairman of the country’s National Maori Authority, told the Guardian on Monday. “Quite frankly, I don’t think any Australian would accept their country becoming a penal colony.”
The controversial Australian law, which New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern labeled “corrosive” last year, allows Canberra to deport foreign nationals who commit violent crimes back to New Zealand, even if they have lived for most of their lives in Australia.
In one instance, an Australian court ruled last month that a 37-year-old criminal should be deported to New Zealand because he was deemed likely to reoffend if released into Australia. The man, who has 28 convictions, including assault and aggravated breaking and entering, has not lived in New Zealand since when he was eight, and all of his relatives are living in Australia.
In a similar case, a court said this week that a motorcycle gang member with 44 convictions should be brought back to his New Zealand homeland, despite having arrived in Australia in 1995 at the age of four.
Overall, nearly 2,500 people have been deported to New Zealand since 2015, the Australian Institute of International Affairs said in April, citing data from New Zealand police.
Tukaki said Canberra’s deportation practice could potentially lead to “gangland wars” in New Zealand cities, similar to “those that occurred in both Sydney and Melbourne in the early 2000s if we are not careful.” Many violent deportees “are made and a product of the Australian environment,” he argued.
Australia is “not listening” to New Zealand’s concerns, which means that Wellington must start “to play hardball,” Tukaki said.
A spokesperson for Alex Hawke, Australia’s immigration minister, told The Guardian that foreign nationals are routinely deported to protect “the safety and security of our community.”
“Violent foreign offenders who do serious harm in our community do not belong here and will not be allowed to stay under this government’s policies,” they said.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison stood by the policy as well. “You commit a crime here, you're convicted, once you have done your time, we send you home,” he said last year.