New Zealanders in Australia's remote Christmas Island Detention Centre have spoken to Te Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis about the trauma of being locked up thousands of miles away from their families in a facility designed to house people considered to be a terrorism threat.
Mr Davis, Labour's Corrections spokesman, gained access to some of the 40 New Zealanders being detained while appealing against their deportations when he visited the centre for a "highly emotional" visit last week.
"We were able to hear about all the alleged human rights violations and assess their health and well-being. They're angry, hungry, traumatised and so desperate to return to their homes in Australia," Mr Davis said.
"These New Zealand-born Australians are not murderers or rapists. They have served their time yet Australian authorities are treating them as though they are a terrorism threat. The stories of the eight detainees we met were all consistent. They hate the isolation, lack of family contact, and lack of contact with legal support."
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He said none of them want to take up Prime Minister John Key's proposal to return to New Zealand to settle their visa applications.
"They think it's a trick designed to prevent them from returning to their families and jobs in Australia," Mr Davis said.
He said he was grateful to Australia Border Force superintendent Maritime Operations WA, Mark Wilson, who allowed the five-hour visit.
"We were drug-tested on arrival, then escorted into an airless visit room where the detainees were brought in two at a time for 30-minute visits. We weren't allowed to film or record their stories so we sat and yarned, laughed and cried about their plight," he said.
"We also took a box of chocolates for Ricardo Young who turned 30 (that day), and whose family asked us to take him a cake after we met them in Sydney. However such is the ridiculousness of the rules the authorities couldn't decide if he was allowed the chocolates."
Australia's 2001 immigration legislation meant New Zealanders were able to live and work permanently in Australia but would only ever be recognised as temporary residents indefinitely. This meant Kiwis who were living in Australia and had done more than a year in prison while over there, were being sent to immigration detention centres while their claims to stay were considered. The Government confirmed on Wednesday plans to urgently pass laws which will allow it to impose parole-like conditions on ex-criminals deported from overseas. Around 1000 expats are expected to be sent back to New Zealand under the legislation.