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Government to issue an apology for the dawn raids

Written By: - Date published: 7:33 am, June 15th, 2021 - 23 comments
Categories: history, International, jacinda ardern, Pacific, police, racism, uncategorized - Tags:

Wonderful news, the Government is going to apologise for the dawn raids in the 1970s that targeted Pacifica.

I was a young teenager at the time and I grew up in Mangere.  I went to a Catholic School and attended a Catholic Church.  My father worked in engineering shops and factories and for a time as a Union Organiser for the Engineers Union.  My parents were core activists in the Mangere Labour Party.  Pacifica were core parts of all of these networks.

The events at the time were harrowning and now are completely horrendous.

The forces of the state were used to harass and terrify an important part of our community because of where they may have been born and because of the colour of their skin.

It seared their recollections of the time.  When I speak to older Samoans and Tongans who have been in New Zealand since the 1960s they all talk about the dawn raids and the effect it had on them.  They had come to New Zealand with the best of intentions, worked in our factories and our hospitals and our workshops.  They wanted to raise their families here and support their families back home.  But they were targeted because of where they were born and the colour of their skin.

NZ History has this harrowing description:

The dawn raids began in the 1970s in Auckland. They represent a low point in the relationship between the government and the Pacific community. It was a time when the New Zealand Police was instructed by the government to enter homes and/or stop people on the street and ask for permits, visas, passports – anything that proved a person’s right to be in the country. This blunt instrument was applied almost exclusively to Pacific Islanders, even though during the 1970s and into the 1980s the bulk of overstayers (individuals who remained in New Zealand after the expiry of their visas) were from Europe or North America.

Melani Anae describes the social and political climate during the 1970s as one of ‘racial tension and unrest as police and immigration authorities victimised Pacific Islanders they suspected of abusing the terms of their visas.’ The Immigration Act 1964 was used to crack down on overstayers. A 1968 amendment to the Act allowed for the deportation of those who had overstayed their work permits. Section 33(a) gave police the power to ask people to produce not only a valid passport, but also a permit to enter and remain temporarily in New Zealand, as well as other evidence of identity. In 1974, the Norman Kirk-led Labour government used this Act to focus on Samoans and Tongans, who did not have free entry to New Zealand, unlike Niueans, Tokelauans and Cook Islanders, whose territories were (and still are) part of the Realm of New Zealand.

The government also approved the formation of two police taskforces to address fears about Polynesian-incited violence in Auckland’s inner-city streets. In March 1974, police and immigration officials began raiding Tongan households. Church services were also interrupted, and the raids produced a sense of shame, fear and uncertainty.

The election of a National government at the end of 1975 was followed by a fresh wave of raids against Pacific Island communities. Under the leadership of Robert Muldoon, the National Party had drawn on racist stereotypes during the election campaign. National set an immigration target of 5,000 (down from 30,000) and was accused of stoking fears about immigration in order to win power. Joris de Bres, a later Race Relations Commissioner, wrote in New Zealand Monthly Review in 1976 that National had been ‘guilty of the most grave distortions and thoroughly dishonest appeals to racism in the New Zealand population’. In the same year, the Auckland Star quoted Justice Graham Speight as saying, ‘one must have the gravest anxiety as to the placement of these unsophisticated people in an environment which they are totally unfitted to cope with.’

Commissioner of Police Ken Burnside ordered Auckland-based Superintendent A.K. Berriman to set up special squads in Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland to carry out raids. The police’s powers were broad. Random checks (‘blitzes’) were carried out at any time of the day or night. Those targeted included ‘drinkers in pubs, passengers at taxi ranks, pedestrians on Auckland streets, workers in factories, New Zealand-born Polynesians, university students, Māori’. In many ways the attention given to ‘dawn raids’ was misleading – they were more widespread than that. Joris de Bres described the effects of such a broad-brush approach: ‘The figures I recall were more than one thousand people were stopped and less than twenty [overstayers] were found.

To be clear Labour does not avoid criticism.  But National weaponised the response and the politics.

This is why yesterday’s announcement is so important.  Aupito William Sio, to my mind one of Labour’s best MPs, gave this most touching of speeches at yesterday’s post cabinet press conference.

There is to be a formal apology on the 24th of June at the Auckland Town Hall.  I suspect this will be a once in a lifetime event.

23 comments on “Government to issue an apology for the dawn raids ”

  1. John G 1

    I reckon they should ask Mark Mitchell to do it since his grandfather was Frank Gill

  2. Ad 2

    The symbolism is good in and of itself. Prime Minister Clark's one for the oppression of Chinese migrants was also worth doing.

    Prime Minister Ardern's apology for the dawn raids would be effective if it was accompanied by a substantial and immediate rise in benefits, good housing, real routes out of poverty for the families of those people.

    • Noel 2.1

      Usually a National Apology is accompanied by something more tangible than words alone. Don't agree with the claim for a special route to residency for overstayers.

      • Ad 2.1.1

        The thing to watch is whether there is any change to the Citizenship (Western Samoa) Act 1982. Pretty much if you got here by September 1982 you are granted New Zealand citizenship.

        Or any change to the 2002 the quota that has allowed 1,100 Samoans to be granted residence each year.

        Those would be the key moves.

  3. Unicus 3

    If the claims in the National Party's "racist" adds are false

    What were the real reasons Muldoons Government took such a confrontational position against pacific imigration

    • Brigid 3.1

      Fomenting hatred against a particular segment of society is always a vote catcher.

      In the 1990s it was beneficiaries.

      Fucking rotten bastards

    • gypsy 3.2

      Hi Unicus. There is an excellent recount of the history here.

      Just to clarify, the raids were begun under the Kirk Labour government in 1974, and carried on under Muldoon from late 1975 until he stopped the raids late in 1976 (although the law was not changed until 1977).

      A shameful episode in our country's history. The apology is long overdue.

      • Incognito 3.2.1

        Why don’t you answer Unicus’s question?

        • gypsy 3.2.1.1

          The article I linked to provides a comprehensive background. It's too long to cut and paste, but in short:

          1. Economic shocks leading to rising unemployment.

          2. Racist attitudes resulting in pacific people being 'scapegoated' for allegedly taking jobs.

          • Incognito 3.2.1.1.1

            He was a nasty piece, Muldoon, wasn’t he, inciting racism in National Party ads? The apology will help heal some of the hurt that has festered for decades.

            • gypsy 3.2.1.1.1.1

              He was that. But aided and abetted by colleagues who refused to call him out.

              • Anne

                Not quite correct. Mike Minogue and Marylyn Waring called him out. For their efforts he drove them out of the party and their colleagues said nothing. Then of course there was Derek Quigley who criticised his financial policies. He left of his own accord (from memory ) and later joined the fledgling ACT Party.

          • Unicus 3.2.1.1.2

            Certainly these were some of the justifications at the time

            But so also was the fear of violence after. a rash of attackss perpetrated on Palanga by young Pacifica men.

            • Brigid 3.2.1.1.2.1

              'rash of attacks'?

              Care to elucidate? With some, you know, facts.

              • Unicus

                Our intention should be reconciliation for that to happen ALL the facts need to be laid bare

                The dawn raids were a reaction of a confused and frightened society confronted by a diaspora of what it saw as foreign and dangerous young men

                Since you have asked for evidence can I suggest you start with : J Ione http://www.psychology .org.nz . Many other papers are available detailing the extent of Pacific domestic violence including one from the UN rating it as the worst inn the world

                The early encounters between our three peoples – I include Maori who were also affected – were not good and it is a tribute to our collective effort that we have reached the level of social harmony we see today

                But never let us forget the pain of the numberless victims of pacific male violence – they need our apologies to .

                [fixed typo in e-mail address]

      • Anne 3.2.2

        From gypsy's article:

        You have two policemen walking in and without saying anything they pull your blankets away from you and if you’re naked they say ‘Get up, put something on’ and they stand there looking at you while you shyly jump around trying to cover yourself … and if you take your time they grab you and throw you into the lounge … the language is the coarsest most obscene language you can use like ‘F- get up! You black bitch, put something on … whore!’

        I have no words!

        The 1970s was a shocking decade. So much really bad stuff happened. It carried on into the 1980s too.

        There was a lot of clandestine politically motivated activity – much of which was criminal in nature. You also had the deliberate provocation by the Muldoon government over sporting contacts with Sth. Africa and bogus lists of communists circulating in society.

        All of it was designed to set races against one another, groups against groups, family against family… and one person stood above all others as the primary instigator, Robert David Muldoon.

  4. weston 4

    Long overdue in my book .Islanders were great people to work with they could make an arduous job bearable in many ways they sang joked and generally horsed arround and made you laugh .They did a lot of shitty jobs back then that usually kiwis werent keen on and having cops bashing on the door at dawn was so insulting to bloody good workers .

  5. georgecom 5

    the story I love from these times is the dawn raid of the minister of immigration by the likes of the Polynesian Panthers and supporters, direct action and clever agitation. whomever thought that protest stunt up hit gold

    • gypsy 5.1

      By way of encouragement, I found this quote:

      " The spirit of the Panthers lives on in those who were part of the movement (‘Once a Panther always a Panther’). Melani Anae credits the group with empowering her and framing her values, especially an emphasis on education ‘as the tool that will lead us out of oppression and darkness and into the light.'"

      https://nzhistory.govt.nz/culture/dawn-raids

  6. alwyn 6

    Is the apology only for the dawn raids of the 1970's or does it include the ones that are still going on today?

    223 raids were conducted between May 2020 and May 2021. They took place at private residences and 19 were between 6 am and 7 am. The rest were generally after 7 am.

    According to the Immigration NZ Manager concerned.

    'Scott said their visits were not raids and it did not involve officers banging down doors.

    “They involve immigration officers attending properties, knocking on the door, engaging with the occupants and, where appropriate, detaining people who are in the country unlawfully.'

    That sounds awfully like a raid to me.

    https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/125444976/dawn-raids-on-overstayers-still-happening-despite-government-apology-to-pasifika

    • Anne 6.1

      Read the link provided by gypsy @ 3.2.

      You will find there is a vast difference between what happened in the 1970s and what happens today.

    • Gabby 6.2

      Sounds more like a visit to me.

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