14 Oct 2015

Marae should be used to help Maori deportees - MP

6:32 pm on 14 October 2015

Auckland Marae should be set up to received Maori deportees who have become dislocated from their home, says Te Taitokerau MP Kelvin Davis.

Caucus run 21/07/15

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Eighty New Zealanders have been deported since new Australian laws came into force, and many of those were Māori.

Mr Davis said refugees got a naturalisation course and Māori with no connection to New Zealand should also be helped to settle in.

He said the Minister of Maori Development should put his hand in his pocket and financially support the Marae that are able to assist.

But Minister Te Ururoa Flavell scoffed at the suggestion and said he did not accept there were Māori in Australia who did not have links in New Zealand, saying "that's what whakapapa is".

When asked about those who moved at a young age, he stood by his claim and said Whanau Ora was there to help anyone who needed it.

Yet Whanau Ora's North Island commissioning arm could not tell Radio New Zealand if their providers had helped a single deportee. A spokesperson said it learned today one of their providers was contacted by Corrections about a 24-year-old man being deported this week.

The Australian Lawyers Alliance said immigration officials could eventually round up many of the 5,000 New Zealanders who have served more than 12 months in Australian jails.

It is believed 1,500 New Zealanders were currently imprisoned, but many of those deported or facing deportation completed their sentences a long time ago.

Meanwhile, former MP Hone Harawira has written to Maori MPs, challenging them to work together to find a solution for New Zealanders currently detained in Australian detention centres.

Mr Harawira has been in contact with a man named Lester, who is being detained on Christmas Island and has been there for the past eight months.

In Mr Harawira's letter, Lester claimed to have been to jail once for assault. He said there were 40 to 50 New Zealanders at Christmas Island, with another 20 to 30 on their way.

Mr Harawira said he could not sit on his hands, so reached out to his former collegues. He has had responses from a number of MPs including Mr Davis, who says he'll head to Australia to see the situation for himself.

Mr Harawira said he had also heard from new Green MP Marama Davidson and Maori Party Co leader Marama Fox, and his message to the rest was clear - "they're our whanau, they're not boat people, they're New Zealand citizens and they deserve to be treated with respect".

Nearly one in ten held in Australian detention centres are New Zealanders - the second largest group being detained.

Mr Harawira said he had heard stories about people being pulled out of their beds and sent to Christmas Island.

Auckland has a number of Marae, some which would be too busy to cope with a project involving deportees. But one iwi leader said his iwi would be open to a conversation around assisting whanau who needed to familiarise themselves with their culture.

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