Ex-detainee 'lost' after return to NZ

6:19 pm on 22 January 2016

A former Christmas Island detainee has applied for 50 jobs since he was deported back to New Zealand and is having a tough time just surviving, he says.

Watch John Campbell's full interview with Peina Clarke here:

Peina Clarke moved to Australia when he was 18, and served seven years in prison for assault and domestic violence.

He spent three months on Christmas Island before being deported to New Zealand at the end of last year.

Mr Clarke said he had been honest with potential employers, but as soon as people understood he was one of the deportees they did not want to know about him.

Christmas Island Detention Centre

Christmas Island Immigration Detention Centre Photo: Wikicommons

He was getting a sickness benefit of about $310 a week but after paying $230 for accommodation at a boarding house he was left with very little money - all of which he spent on food.

His father was dead, and his mother - and his children - were still in Australia, he said.

"It's tough. It's tough as, because I don't know anything about New Zealand. I'm lost here," he said.

"Every day, I try to stay positive and try to move on. I try to deal with it but I can't. I'm strong but there's only so much more I can take as a man, I suppose."

Mr Clarke said the organisation PARS helped him when he first arrived in Auckland, but the only one checking on him now was his parole officer.

He felt the Australian government dumped him in this country, and the New Zealand government did not want anything to do with him.

Peina Clarke

Peina Clarke Photo: RNZ / Checkpoint

Mr Clark said thanks to Māori Party MP Marama Fox, who had passed on a contact, he was going to start work as a builder's labourer next week.

Almost all the other people in his situation back in New Zealand were finding it tough, he said.

"We're all trying to get a job. We're all trying to move on but it's not that easy. It's inevitable that people are going to turn to crime if we don't get the help."

Australia toughened its immigration rules in late 2014, changing the threshold for the cancellation of visas or revocation of permanent residency.

Previously, only non-citizens with serious criminal records were targeted for deportation.

Under the new approach, visas are cancelled for those serving prison terms of 12 months or more - including as a cumulative total - and those convicted of a sexual offence against a child.

Read a fact sheet about the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection's policy

Extra funding might be needed

PARS operations manager Rachel Ngatai said the organisation may need extra funding to cope with the influx of New Zealand detainees being deported from Australia.

The $100,000 the government gave her organisation to help detainees may no longer be enough, she said.

"A hundred thousand was a start and, yes, it is a matter of us needing to discuss further as to whether it is going to continue to be enough.

"We know, with it covering from Auckland way down to the bottom of the South Island, it needs to be revisited."

Ms Ngatai said the Corrections Department was providing some oversight for detainees arriving in New Zealand.

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