Nicholas Jones is a New Zealand Herald political reporter.

Stream of deportees arrive in New Zealand

Amy Adams says the law is operating as intended. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Amy Adams says the law is operating as intended. Photo / Mark Mitchell

More than a quarter of people being deported to New Zealand from Australia have not been convicted of a crime, or have served less than a year in jail, new figures reveal.

Deportees have been arriving at the rate of more than one a day since a law managing their return was passed on November 18 last year.

Of those, 73 were automatically placed under supervision by probation officers in New Zealand Corrections.

Justice Minister Amy Adams said the rest were not eligible for automatic supervision because either they had served less than a year in prison or were deported on character grounds that were not related to a conviction.

Of that group, Corrections made three successful court applications for supervision -- meaning 29 were deported despite not having a conviction, or having served minor jail time.

Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox said the Government needed to push Australia harder on adjusting the threshold at which people are deported, particularly those who are judged to have failed on character grounds.

"The Government should be asking greater questions of cases of deportation on character grounds ... the [Australian Immigration] Minister Peter Dutton can take away the visa, seal the record.

"They come back over here and we are picking up the pieces of this mess that the Australian Government has created. Our Government have moved to try and put some controls in there, but for the people sent back on bad character, there are no controls."

Ms Fox said she was looking at a case where a 77-year-old, who was associated with the Rebels motorcycle gang and had a minor drug conviction, was deported to New Zealand on character grounds, despite having lived the majority of his life in Australia.

Labour Corrections spokesman Kelvin Davis said Australia had attempted to portray deportees as hard-nosed criminals, but the reality was that many were not.

The trauma of being deported was compounded by long stays in detention centres. Mr Davis said that the treatment of people in those centres was of huge concern.

"When they come out, whether they go back to Australian society or New Zealand society, they are going to come out in a worse state than when they come in.

"That means when they get to New Zealand, chances are they are bitter and angry, and there's potential there to create more victims."

In releasing the figures, Ms Adams said all 105 have had identifying particulars and DNA collected from them. The law was operating as intended.

"The most serious offenders are being supervised to ensure public safety and assist their re-integration into society.

"I've said throughout that while there is always a risk of re-offending, as there is with any offender who leaves prison, this law goes a long way to mitigate that risk for law-abiding New Zealanders."

The Returning Offenders (Management and Information) Bill was passed in November without opposition. It was designed to give the same sort of oversight to the stream of deportees arriving from Australia as offenders who had served a similar sentence in New Zealand.

The deportations are the result of a law passed in Australia in November 2014 which automatically cancelled the immigration status of any non-Australian citizen who had been sentenced to a year or more in prison, either in a single sentence or in a series of cumulative sentences.

Many were sent to detention centres around Australia including the infamous Christmas Island Centre which was visited by Labour MP Kelvin Davis -- that visit prompted Prime Minister John Key to accuse Labour of supporting murderers and rapists. He has since apologised in Parliament for making the comment.

Of the 70 per cent of offenders who have come under the automatic supervision of Corrections, 40 have had additional special conditions imposed on them, said Ms Adams. The law says special conditions may include electronic monitoring, a residential restriction and a requirement to take prescription medicine -- although only if the prisoner agreed.

Last week Corrections Minister Judith Collins said Auckland-based Prisoners' Aid and Rehabilitation Society (PARS) would be given a $100,000 grant to help settle deportees.

That is the second grant PARS has received to help settle deportees from Australia -- last October it was given $100,000.

PARS staff will meet the deportee at the airport, and help the person sign up to bank accounts, benefits, an IRD account and arrange immediate accommodation. That support is ongoing.

As of December 30 last year, there were 183 New Zealanders held in detention centres, including 158 men and 25 women.

- NZ Herald

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

© Copyright 2016, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf03 at 06 Dec 2016 20:05:45 Processing Time: 329ms