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'Nothing's changed': Dawns Raids apology for naught as Immigration NZ continues mistreatment says Pacific leader

A Wairarapa-based Pacific leader says some of the unethical Dawn Raid practices seem to be rearing it's head again.

Vaimaila Leatinu'u
Aui'a Vaimaila Leatinu'u
16 February 2024, 2:53pm
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A Pacific leader is concerned Immigration NZ (INZ) is still mistreating Pacific overstayers despite the Dawn Raids apology over two years ago.

General manager for Pasifika o Wairarapa, Luther Toloa says the Pacific community informed him of a migrant worker in Masterton getting detained and deported by immigration officers from Wellington.

"Immigration services detained him for three days without notifying his employer, his family or anybody in the community," Toloa says.

"Three days later they put him on a plane and sent him home."

Toloa says INZ's mistreatment of Pacific peoples contradicts then-Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's apology through the Sāmoan forgiveness practice of ifoga in 2021.

"[Ardern] went through that process to apologise for the way the Pasifika community was dealt with in the 1970s.


"It needs to be reminded the reason behind that apology."

Luther Toloa. Photo/Pasifika o Wairarapa

An inquiry by the Race Relations Conciliator in 1986 found that Pacific peoples made up around a third of overstayers, roughly equal to overstayers from the United States and Great Britain.

However, 86 per cent of prosecutions were Pacific peoples, while American and British overstayers accounted for only five per cent.

"That was the basis and the understanding by the then-Prime Minister," Toloa says.

He says the disproportionate treatment remains prevalent today, citing the 2023 Heron report commissioned by The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).

The report identified ongoing mistreatment of Pacific overstayers and recommended five solutions to INZ, one of which is amending the Immigration Act 2009.

The previous Immigration Act 1987 sanctioned Police to remove by force if necessary overstayers in any building or premises so long as Police believed on reasonable grounds that the person was present.

The 1987 act would then be repealed over 20 years later in favour of the subsequent and current Immigration Act 2009, which labels those in New Zealand without a visa unlawful rather than illegal.

The 2009 act denotes that overstayers must return home before their visa expires but are not committing a crime by failing to do so.

However, the aforementioned report found that before and after the 2021 apology the INZ conducted "out-of-hours compliance activity," visiting the homes of unlawful persons around 6 AM to deport them, which the Immigration Act 2009 allows.

"It should be only reserved for cases where it's of national security and public interest," Toloa says.

"[The report] talks about reasonableness, the elements that were absent when the policies were implemented in the 1970s."

He says the report shows that immigration ministers and officials "basically sat on the apology and did nothing".

"In terms of changing the legislation and practices to reflect the intent of the apology and correct the practices done in the 1970s."

Speaking to The Post, MBIE general manager of immigration compliance and investigation Steve Watson said the pause on out-of-hours visits would continue until staff were trained on new operating procedures.

The ministry also committed to adopting four recommendations from the Heron report, while the fifth was for the Government to consider under MBIE’s advice.

Toloa says he has not spoken to INZ directly but others have done so on their behalf.

"They've had two and a half years to deal with the outcomes of the apology," he says.

"More importantly what they should do now is while they're looking at the recommendations of the Heron report they should stop the arbitrary arresting detention of all Pasifika migrant workers until they've done something about the apology."

Watch the full interview from 531pi's Facebook page below:

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