Nearly half of all deportations from the country over the past five years have involved Indian and Chinese nationals, according to the latest statistics from Immigration New Zealand.
The figures include instances of self-deportations, in which individuals voluntarily leave New Zealand after receiving expulsion orders, as well as instances where immigration officials have enforced deportation notices.
It also includes individuals who have been deported during visits outside of normal hours by immigration officials like the dawn raids of the 1970s.
The statistics suggest immigration officials have been putting more resources into deporting Asian overstayers in recent years.
"It is a huge Asian issue because there seems to be a disproportionate targeting of Asians for deportations in comparison to the number of overstayers in New Zealand," says Alastair McClymont, an immigration law specialist.
McClymont says Asian migrants have become the focus of attention due to a perception by Immigration New Zealand that they are particularly susceptible to exploitation.
What's more, he believes that many of these migrants are single and do not have families with children, making them more susceptible to being singled out by officials.
The Pacific communities received an official apology from the government in 2021 for the distress and hurt caused by the dawn raids of the 1970s.
Still, immigration officials have continued the practice in their attempt to crack down on overstayers.
The latest statistics show that Immigration New Zealand conducted 48 raids outside of regular hours between 1 July 2018 and 2 May 2023.
Seventy individuals who had exceeded the duration of their visas were discovered as a result of the raids. Of the 70 identified, 62 were from Asian countries.
Among these, 50 were Chinese and 46 were subsequently deported. Additionally, six Indian nationals were identified, with five being sent back to the subcontinent. Four Malaysian nationals and two Bangladeshis were also identified and deported.
McClymont is not surprised with the high number of Asian deportees.
"It's always my perception that Immigration New Zealand's Compliance team targeted specific groups and left others," he says.
He claims it is unfair and discriminatory that immigration officials are taking advantage of "slow-moving targets".
David Campbell, head of Immigration Compliance, says cases are prioritised based on potential risk associated with specific individuals, and the assessment is primarily focused on the violation of the law rather than the nationality of the individuals involved.
Campbell adds that Immigration New Zealand data shows that nationalities with the highest risk of overstaying in New Zealand are also the most likely to leave voluntarily or face deportation.
By the numbers
From 1 July 2018 to 29 August 2023, a total of 3200 individuals were deported from New Zealand.
Roughly 43 percent of these deportations involved Indian and Chinese nationals.
Seven hundred and forty-seven Indian nationals were deported, followed by 641 Chinese nationals. Malaysia ranked third among the Asian countries, with 121 deportations.
Over a one-year period from 1 July 2018 to 30 June 2019, 905 individuals were deported, with 46 percent originating from India (277 cases) and China (144 cases).
The subsequent financial year saw 969 individuals deported, with 223 Indians and 174 Chinese nationals comprising 41 percent of all deportations from New Zealand.
The following year saw a notable increase in deportations overall, although Indian and Chinese nationals made up 48 percent of the total figure. Five hundred and fifty-one individuals were deported over that period, including 117 Indians and 151 Chinese nationals.
In the past two financial years, the number of Indian and Chinese nationals who were deported has remained consistent, accounting for approximately 40 percent of all deportations.
From 1 July 2022 to 29 August 2023, a total of 80 Indians and 88 Chinese nationals have been deported.
"Everyone who comes to New Zealand is made aware of their rights and responsibilities to leave the country before their visa expires," says Simon Sanders, deputy chief operating officer of Immigration New Zealand. "Ultimately it is the responsibility of the individual to adhere to the conditions of their visa."
Sanders notes that anyone staying in New Zealand illegally must leave under the provisions of the 2009 Immigration Act.
"The legal obligation to leave New Zealand before a temporary visa expires is clearly communicated on visas," Sanders says.
-- RNZ Pacific reporter Lydia Lewis contributed to this report.