16 Jan 2018

Detainee's family 'absolutely devastated' by sudden move

1:19 pm on 16 January 2018

A New Zealand detainee in Australia who was moved without warning to another detention centre across the country says he doesn't know when he'll be able to see his children again.

Lorenzo Sua was shifted from the Villawood Detention Centre in Sydney by guards at 3am - the morning after an RNZ interview with him was aired - and flown to a high-security facility near Perth.

It follows news that other New Zealanders detained in Australia are on a hunger strike because of the tightening of rules in the visitors policy at Villawood.

He said he was being punished for speaking out and his family was initially left in the dark about the sudden move.

"They hit the panic button, they were calling everyone to see where I was at, nobody was saying anything.

"They were all just absolutely devastated to find out that I'd been moved."

Mr Sua said it was hard being so far away from his Sydney-based family.

"The worst thing about it was that my birthday is at the end of this month, and I'd organised my kids to come up and see me for [that] because I was unable to see them at Christmas."

Mr Sua said while he was able to speak to his family on the phone, he was not able to provide them with any certainty about his situation.

A spokesperson for the Australian Border Force said that decisions on where to place individuals in the detention network are based on a number of factors, including criminal histories, operational requirements, security and welfare issues.

"In circumstances where a foreign national has been determined as presenting a risk to the community, they may be detained in a facility commensurate to the level of risk they pose."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told RNZ today the government was limited in what it could do for New Zealanders being held indefinitely in Australian detention centres.

But she said the government would keep advocating to change Australian policies.

Ms Ardern said there had been some positive changes made to the Australian appeals process for detainees with few links to New Zealand.

There are 175 New Zealand citizens being held in detention centres, according to the latest Australian Government figures.

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