A detainee who arrived in New Zealand yesterday on board a flight dubbed "Con Air" described conditions in the camp on Christmas Island as "scary."
The chartered flight arrived with 12 detainees, including Jason Branks, at Auckland Airport yesterday morning.
The detainees were all from the Christmas Island detention centre in Australia and arrived just after 10am.
Most have appealed Australia's decision to deport them for their crimes but would appeal from New Zealand, police said.
Police Superintendent John Tims said the operation went "really smooth" yesterday.
Mr Tims didn't comment on whether it was necessary to cuff the detainees, but said police were committed to ensuring the safety of detainees and of the public.
Eight of the offenders had supervision orders and all offenders had DNA samples and fingerprints taken.
Mr Branks said his photo and fingerprints were taken, and other paperwork completed. He said he was now making plans for the future.
"I'll be actively looking for a job, and also courses."
He said conditions on Christmas Island were often unpleasant. He was sent there from Brisbane.
"They sent me to Christmas Island, way away from all my family." He said the death of an Iranian detainee triggered the riots earlier this month.
"It was pretty scary. A lot of us were concerned for our welfare because the officers actually left the centre." He said an emergency relief team and Australian Federal Police arrived "to try and calm things down".
"The day we were taken from our units ... we weren't getting looked after that well. They were playing up ... "
Mr Branks said a group of detainees, some of whom had no role in the riots, were held in a roughly 72sq m room, and half the room was "actual dirt". He said he was held in the room for 30 hours.
"Some people were in there for even longer." He was heading to Christchurch.
"I've got a hotel and that booked for the next two weeks. In that time I'm going to be looking at courses to do, and looking for a job."
Corrections northern commissioner Jeanette Burns said the offenders would be monitored closely and police and Ministry of Social Development staff would help them settle into the community.
Corrections provided transport for the offenders and housing for some of the deportees. Others would stay with family members.
None of the offenders was in custody.
Labour's Corrections spokesman Kelvin Davis said the detainees needed support if society was to integrate them.
"If they don't have food, accommodation and the other basics, they could fall back into crime, which is the last thing we want." Mr Davis didn't think it was necessary for the public to know where the deportees were going or what they'd be doing.
"The last thing they need is the public pointing at them. They've done their time in Australia. They're entitled to privacy."
One of those still being held in Australia, Ngati Kanohi Te Eke Haapu, a former New Zealand soldier who guarded Prime Minister John Key in Afghanistan, was ordered out of the country on "character" grounds even though he committed no crime.
Meanwhile, Mr Key, who is in Manila at the Apec summit, said he raised the deportation issue with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
"There is this Anzac bond, and when you get ... this policy, it sort of challenges the Anzac spirit in the minds of New Zealanders."
The policy to deport non-Australians sentenced to a year or more in jail and those deemed to have poor character was introduced last December, before Mr Turnbull became prime minister. But Mr Key said it was unlikely to change.
Instead, he said he was quietly optimistic headway would be made on another, related, issue - giving more of the 650,000 Kiwis living in Australia a pathway to citizenship.
Christmas Island saga
• Non-Australian citizens who have served a prison sentence of one year or more are being deported, potentially affecting up to 1000 New Zealanders.
• NZ detainees are being kept in detention centres in Nauru, Manus Island and Christmas Island either waiting for deportation or for the outcome of an appeal.
• Some detainees have complained about their treatment, and rioting broke out at Christmas Island following the death of an asylum seeker.
• The NZ Govt says it will not intervene. The Australian Govt says it will not back down on its policy.
• Detainees have been told they can return to NZ, and an agreement has been made with Australia to speed up the appeals process.
- NZME, Newstalk ZB