Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

“It should not have happened!” – Immigration Minister Michael Wood

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Immigration Minister Michael Wood admits his officials got it wrong when they executed a deportation order on a South Auckland man nearly a fortnight ago.

And as a result, all “out of hours” compliance visits – which includes so-called ‘dawn raids’ – have been suspended pending a review by independent barrister Mike Heron KC.

Speaking with John Pulu from Tagata Pasifika on Friday, minister Wood was apologetic and keen to make amends for the actions of his officials.

“Firstly they have acknowledged they got this wrong and it shouldn’t have happened and actually I would like to pass on my apology as minister for the fact that it did, because it should not have happened,” he says.

“And what they have said they would do, as a start of putting that right, is firstly to conduct a full review into the out-of-hours deportation policy.”

The plight of the South Auckland man was revealed on the Tagata Pasifika programme last week when his lawyer, Soane Foliaki from Community Law South Auckland, explained that his client and his family had been woken in the early hours of the morning – at around 5am – by door-thumping police and immigration officials.

Foliaki says the family, including four children, were frightened and traumatised by the event and to see their step-father taken away by officials. He characterised the ‘compliance visit’ as a ‘dawn raid’ reminiscent of the 1970s clampdown on Polynesian overstayers.

To make matters worse, the raid comes just two years after former Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern apologised to the Pacific Islands community for the harm caused by the raids in the 1970s.

Minister Wood acknowledged, this recent action put the apology in a bad light.

“It drew to the surface feelings of real hurt and trauma going back to the 1970s dawn raids and for us as a government, it just didn’t reflect the way that we wanted things to be after that apology that was delivered, that we know was so important in 2021,” he says.

“So earlier this week as the Minister for immigration, I made my expectations to Immigration New Zealand (INZ) very clear, that we were deeply concerned by this, that we did not see that it reflected the spirit of the Dawn Raids apology and that we wanted to see INZ reflect and take action.”

Meanwhile the Head of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) Carolyn Tremain says the review will consider existing policies and processes for out of hours visits and is needed following concerns raised by the Pacific community.

“The right and proper thing to do is to stop out of hours visits while the review is carried out,” Ms Tremain says.

“Pacific leaders have voiced their deep concerns and unhappiness at recent events and it’s clear that lessons still need to be learned following the Dawn Raids of the 1970s and the formal apology made by the Government in August 2021.

Minister Wood says he will be attending a community meeting in Otahuhu on Saturday to hear their concerns. He acknowledged the role his own Pasifka caucus colleagues in government have played in helping to make things right.

Between 1 July 2022 and 2 May 2023, the INZ Compliance team has interacted with 657 people who have either voluntarily departed, or who have been deported. Of those, just 20 visits (or 3 percent of visits) have been outside the hours of 7am to 9pm.

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