Critical report highlights plight of NZ detainee in Australia

6:34 pm on 10 January 2017

A highly critical report on the way Australia treats non-citizens whose visas have been cancelled has highlighted the plight of New Zealand detainees, including one man whose mentally ill wife was left to look after their children.

no caption


Australia's Commonwealth Ombudsman has just released its report on part of its immigration policy, known as section 501, which allows the federal government to cancel non-citizen's visas in certain circumstances.

The treatment of New Zealanders detained has been prominent in the news in the last 18 months.

The ombudsman's investigation interviewed a number of detainees and looked at different cases.

In one instance, a New Zealand man who had been living in Queensland since 2009 was paroled and moved to Yongah Hill Immigration Detention Centre in Western Australia.

He was married, with four children and one grandchild in Queensland.

The report said the man had not seen his family in 14 months due to the distance and financial constraints, and that his wife, who has mental health problems, was having difficulty looking after their children.

The report condemned the administration of the act as ineffective and left former prisoners spending prolonged periods in immigration detention.

It found that many people ended up in immigration detention centres in different states, resulting in enforced separation of the detainees from their families, children and support networks, with little chance visits would be made.

The report said that undermined Australia's Immigration Department's policy of giving prime consideration to the minor children of detainees through prolonging separation.

It also noted the separation impact on the ability of detainees to cope in immigration detention.

Of the 1219 visas which were cancelled under section 501 between 1 January 2014 and 29 February 2016, New Zealanders made up 697.

Deportation process 'completely inhumane'

The co-founder of the Iwi in Aus group, Filipa Payne, said she hoped the report would open the system up to more public scrutiny.

"The deportation process at the moment is completely inhumane and it leaves no processes for children. The children are actually the victims in the outcome of all of this, and why all of a sudden is immigration being placed over the rights of our legal system and the rights of a child?"

Ms Payne said she recently went to Christmas Island where some New Zealanders were being held.

"I met people that have been on Christmas Island for 18 months and they have never even had a visitor, they've been on the island for that long and they have trouble with their emails.

"They are struggling to deal with case workers, because case workers are telling them they can't help them. They are completely put in a situation where their mental health is so detrimental to themselves."

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs