17 Jul 2018

'This is in no way a place for a young person to be'

From Checkpoint, 5:40 pm on 17 July 2018

A woman who's been supporting a young New Zealander controversially held in detention in Australia for four months says he was in a totally inappropriate environment.

The 17-year-old was released yesterday through an order by the Australian Immigration Appeals Tribunal.

Expatriate journalist Rebekah Holt, who has been involved in the teenager's case, said he was being held in an adult detention centre similar to a maximum security prison in New Zealand.

The teenager is now with his family in New South Wales but it's not known if Australia will deport him, she said.

"It's too soon for us to see what the impact of this has had," she told Checkpoint.

"He had some really low points in the last month. We spent a lot of time on the phone, sometimes he would call me very late at night and when you're a parent and have your own teenagers and know that someone's really vulnerable, you do pick up those calls.

"So we had some conversations and I have said publicly I was really, really worried about his mental health and he did say to me several times - more than several times - that he was struggling. So the relief yesterday, that he was released, was just huge."

Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters earlier this month called on the Australian government to release the teenager.

Previously, only adult New Zealanders had been detained under the immigration rules Australia tightened in 2014.

Mr Peters accused Australia of flouting United Nations agreements by detaining a child, and promised to raise the issue with Australia's foreign minister next month.