On a remote island a number of Kiwis are being held in detention by a foreign state. They are being held because they have been convicted of crimes. But they have already served their sentences. As an additional punishment they are to be deported back to New Zealand, even though they have been in their new country for decades and have established homes and families and jobs.
The conditions they are being held in are barbaric. They have no meaningful contact with their families and loved ones. The pace of processing of their appeals seeking to be able to remain in this foreign country is slow. And many of them do not pose security risks to their country of source. Instead of this they have been transferred far away onto a small island in what seems to be a calculated move to break their will.
Conditions are that bad some of them have rioted. They have barricaded themselves in one of the compounds and are armed with chainsaws, machetes and petrol bombs. The management of the centre have refused to negotiate a peaceful back down. This is going to get really ugly. The situation was sparked by the death of an inmate. The fear is that other deaths will follow.
And the Governments response? Pitiful in the extreme.
Of course I am talking about Australia’s treatment of New Zealanders who through a recent cruel law change find themselves where in some cases their home of many decades is now no longer welcoming of them.
This is how our Prime Minister should be responding.
But unfortunately he is relaxed about the situation. From Radio New Zealand:
Mr Key said incidents at the detention centre were a matter for the Australian government and he would not be intervening.
“I’m always concerned about New Zealanders but they are in a corrections facility [where] actually they are free to leave… They are staying there voluntarily.”
If any of the detainees had concerns they could contact the New Zealand Government, he said.
As far as he understood, the process was being speeded up and New Zealand detainees given priority.
“I can’t tell you exactly what the pathway was but the assurance we got from the Australians is they’re putting in a lot more resources… but the question is how quickly [they] can deal with those appeals.”
At least Marama Fox is being staunch.
Mrs Fox dismissed the suggestion detainees could leave whenever they wanted.
“It’s almost a ridiculous statement because they have to sign away their visa rights in order to do that. “These are people whose lives have been established in Australia. They want to go home to their families who are in Australia – not in New Zealand.”
And Key’s claims that the processing of applications has been sped up appear to be, ahem, not correct.
An Australian lawyer who acts for New Zealanders in detention, Greg Barns, said tensions had been building for some time over delays.
“I’m not aware of any acceleration whatsoever and I’m relatively close to the situation. John Key needs to pick up the phone to Malcolm Turnbull and say, ‘you gotta fix this’.”
Christmas Island was a “desolate place” and the centre should be shut down, he said.
“You’ve had people who have been effectively taken from their families, placed in detention, and in some cases, as we know, they’ve been living in Australia for long periods of time.
If you feel incensed at the issue there is to be a protest outside the Australian Consulate tomorrow at 1 pm orgainsed by Joe Carolan and the Unite Union. The Facebook event is here.
And this tweet by Morgan Godfery neatly sums up Kelvin Davis’s performance on the issue.
It's pretty embarrassing for Labor when the staunchest critic of Australian detention centres is a New Zealand Labour MP.
— Morgan Godfery (@MorganGodfery) November 9, 2015
I am finishing this post while watching Parliament. John Key is reaching a new loan by suggesting that all of the detainees are sex offenders and murderers and the opposition has rightfully expressed outrage. Some twitter traffic follows.
Okay, I'm gonna call this one. If this is a govt tactic – to accuse its critics of supporting rapists and child abusers – it's a disgrace.
— stories from the city (@mizjwilliams) November 10, 2015
Grant Robertson saying PM's comments are offensive, should withdraw and apologise.
— Frances Cook (@FrancesCook) November 10, 2015
Ardern leaves, then Woods, Dyson, Whaitiri, Mahuta, Henares in slow walk-out over PM's comments about Labour backing rapists.
— Audrey Young (@audreyNZH) November 10, 2015
Update: Video of question one follows.