19 Oct 2015

Christmas Island 'just like a prison'

9:30 am on 19 October 2015

Two days after the Australian Prime Minister promised more compassion for New Zealanders in detention, Labour Party MP Kelvin Davis says the situation remains dire for those being held on Christmas Island.

Labour MP , Kelvin Davis.

Labour MP , Kelvin Davis. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Mr Davis is on the island, more than 2500 kilometres northwest of Perth, where about 40 New Zealanders are being held in detention.

Christmas Island was like a bush-covered rock in the ocean, with a hot humid climate and the compound the detainees were in looked just like a prison, he said.

"There's big fences with razor wire, there's buildings that look just like a prison in New Zealand - these guys are prisoners, the difference being that they don't know when their sentence is going to end. It could be tomorrow, it could be in three years time and there are people who have literally been there for three years."

Mr Davis said he hadn't been able to get inside the detention centre yet, but he said he had been told the situation inside was not good.

He spoke to the wife of one of the people being detained.

Christmas Island detention centre

Christmas Island detention centre Photo: Supplied

"She says her that husband is covered in boils, he's had a bite from a white-tailed spider, he's not getting antibiotics, morally he's just waning.

"She said she rang up to complain and to ask what's going on, is he getting the treatment and they just said look it's not our problem and hung up on her."

He rejected Prime Minister John Key's assertion that his trip there was a political stunt, saying his intention had been to draw attention to the plight of kiwis in detention, which is what he said he had done.

Meanwhile, Auckland-based Prisoners Aid & Rehabilitation Society said its resources were getting stretched dealing with the jump in numbers of people sent back to New Zealand.

Its executive director Tui Ah Loo said many of them have nowhere to go, no family and were starting from scratch.

"Some of them could arrive with a hundred dollars in their pockets, some with a couple hundred more, some may have a voucher for accommodation, some may have nothing.

"It all depends on what they are individually able to negotiate before they leave."

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and New Zealand Prime Minister John Key

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and New Zealand Prime Minister John Key Photo: Getty

Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox said it was Maori who were bearing the brunt of the law changes, so Maori communities around New Zealand would also have to pull together to assist their people who were deported.

"We absolutely recognise that our people are our people no matter where they live, so some people might say 'why are you worried about things going on in Australia?' and I say well these are our people and what happens to them will eventually impact on us here.

"In this case those people will be coming home to New Zealand and we will be picking up the pieces of their lives, not just the individuals but the whanau."

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he would not back down on the tough law change introduced last year, which was leading to the jump in New Zealanders being held in detention.

But he said his government would be more compassionate in considering appeals from those who want to stay in Australia.

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