Four vanloads of Kiwis controversially deported from Australia arrived at their downtown boutique hotel in Auckland today.
The Herald understands New Zealanders deported from Australia will be in managed isolation at the Ramada by Wyndham hotel in downtown Federal St for the required 14-day quarantine period.
The deportees were seen arriving at the central Auckland hotel and were escorted into the hotel by police.
Many carried backpacks and duffel bags as luggage, and only a few were wearing masks.
Police were stationed outside the hotel and security was heavily increased once the first van arrived.
A man who lives two doors away but didn't want to be identified told the Herald he was concerned about the new arrivals.
"Keeping things a secret never helps anyone and only allows for discontent and misjudgements."
The deportees should be kept at a Defence Force base, he believed.
Police and security guards could be seen outside the hotel and walking around inside.
Four vans arrived and made a drop-off to the Ramada, however each van was half full with police officers.
Staff at the hotel declined to comment when contacted by the Herald and directed queries to the All of Government Response Group.
Health Minister Chris Hipkins confirmed the deportees had arrived in New Zealand. He has refused to divulge where they would be staying, amid concerns it could be a "magnet for attention".
The managed isolation facility was being guarded by police and military.
Hipkins said the group were all co-operative with authorities as they entered New Zealand and managed isolation.
The Ramada Suites by Wyndham Auckland is described as "42-apartment, boutique-style hotel".
The suites are located in the heart of Auckland's CBD and a 400m walk from Auckland's Sky Tower and SkyCity Casino.
Hipkins announced Australian deportees would arrive on one chartered flight, paid for by the Australian government, and that the Government has been keen to keep the hotel in Auckland anonymous.
When asked why the Government was being so tight-lipped, Hipkins said he didn't want the hotel to "become a magnet for attention".
"Ultimately, these people have done their time. They've been deported from Australia but there are actually no grounds to detain them.
"We couldn't put them in prison, for example. That wouldn't be justified."
Filipa Payne, who campaigns for the rights of New Zealanders in Australian detention, told The Herald those staying at the Ramada had been kept in the dark throughout the process.
"We've asked the Australian government to give these men dates and information on their flights - how much luggage they can bring, if they're going to be able to access any money, none of that has been put in writing.
"The men at the Melbourne detention centre were told they were leaving at midnight last night. They were handcuffed and had their phones taken off them before leaving the centre.
"All of the people on these flights were handcuffed for the duration of the flight, which flew from Melbourne to Brisbane to pick up more people. Some people were handcuffed for over six hours."
Arriving in New Zealand, the detainees were given no information on what benefits they would qualify for or what support they could access, Payne said.
Support services such as drug and alcohol counselling should be offered to them while they are in managed isolation, as well as the opportunity for a medical assessment, she said.
"A lot of the guys in detention centre hold back information because they don't trust the system that they're in," she said.
Payne said was fielding calls from the detainees in Auckland and their worried families, while trying to stack up rumours of a second Auckland-bound flight in the next few days.
"The men are relieved to be out of detention centre regime, but there is a huge amount of depression and sorrow there because they have left behind children and parents and a place they called home.
"These men are broken people ... have some mana and some aroha and extend kindness to them like our Prime Minister says to."
ACT Leader David Seymour says "The Aussie deportation saga further highlights how poor the Government's handling of quarantine has been. There are now New Zealanders waiting offshore to return home, their fastest option would be to commit a crime and get deported."
"The Government should be opening up to private quarantine to increase capacity. It should set clear rules of the game with strict regulation and penalties and enforcement. Otherwise, honest people have to line up behind criminals for a limited number of spaces."
Deportations from Australia had earlier been put on hold due to the travel restrictions imposed either side of the Tasman as both countries grappled with an initial response to the global pandemic.
The policy to deport Kiwis has been a point of contention between the two countries, with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern having previously described the policy as "corrosive".