501 deportees: Tukaki calls for Australian Human Rights inquiry

By Kelvin McDonald
Photo / File

The Australian Human Rights Commission must launch an urgent inquiry into the plight of 501s detained across the Tasman awaiting deportation to Aotearoa, says Matthew Tukaki, National Māori Authority chair.

Tukaki says he has written to the commission's president Rosalind Croucher calling for an urgent investigation into the treatment of New Zealand citizens detained in Australia and potential human rights breaches under international conventions. He says he has also contacted the United Nations Human Rights Council regarding monitoring of Australia's obligations.

"I am deeply concerned about the treatment of detainees at the offshore processing centre of Christmas Island and believe that those detained have had their basic Human Rights violated under the relevant conventions that Australia is a signatory to," Tukaki said Wednesday.

Tukaki says the grounds used to cancel a person's visa - under section 116 of the Migration Act which gives the Immigration Minister discretionary powers to cancel visas on character grounds - are discriminatory and at risk of failing the basic convention of fairness.

"In many cases those who have been detained, previously and currently, have grown up in Australia and are the product of an Australian environment. They have lives, jobs, family and children in Australia with many having been resident since birth. In other cases there are those whose convictions are relatively minor and others who have simply failed the test applied against Section 116. In addition to this is the often arbitrary nature of the appeals process."

Tukaki says 21 New Zealand citizens had their visas cancelled in the 2019-20 fiscal year and 38 the following year.

“I am deeply, deeply concerned, as are many others, about the treatment of these New Zealand citizens, who for all intense (sic) purposes are permanent residents of Australia – and I have also written to the UN Human Rights body to also inquire into what is happening as part of the regular review of Australia’s performance against the treaties, declarations and conventions they are signed up to,” he says.

"I get that many Australians are very clear about those who commit crimes – as am I. Obviously, I would prefer they don’t and understand the privilege of being manuhiri on someone else’s land – however, I point out many of these people are the product of Australia; for all intense (sic) purposes they are Australian and simply deporting the problem away if not going to change things -that’s why there needs to be a circuit breaker.”