There has always been a special relationship between New Zealanders and Australians with citizens often living and working in each other’s countries.
But that ‘special family’ relationship is in danger of being destroyed according to campaigners who are against the new rules in Australia which mean that around 1,000 New Zealanders are facing deportation.
Indeed, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has confirmed that 12 New Zealanders who have had their Australian visas cancelled have already been deported having been put on a chartered flight from Melbourne to Auckland Airport.
They have fallen foul of tough new laws allowing for the mandatory cancellation of visas for foreigners sentenced to at least one year’s jail, or convicted of sexual offences against children. But campaigners say that many have lived most of their life in Australia.
The detention prompted consternation from the New Zealand government and Prime Minister John Key has voiced his displeasure to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, but said he does not see a change on the horizon.
However, Key hopes that it could become easier in the future for people from New Zealand to become Australian citizens. Many who have lived in Australia for most of their lives say they feel “stateless.”
New Zealand politicians have not minced their words. Minister of Internal Affairs Peter Dunne wrote this month that Australia’s leaders say their Trans-Tasman neighbours are “family” but were treating New Zealanders awaiting deportation “in a way that is appalling.”
But Australia is unrepentant. “The first 12 people that have had their visas cancelled under Section 501 of the [Migration] Act, so they’ve failed the character test, they’ve gone back to New Zealand,” said Dutton. “We’ve done a lot of work with the New Zealand government and we have put in place an arrangement where we can return them. So, they’re off our soil and they’re back in New Zealand.”
He pointed out that the law is not just for New Zealand citizens. “The law here operates not against New Zealanders or not against Brits or not against Indonesians, it operates against people who have committed serious crimes or who have been conducting themselves in a way which means that they fail the character test,” said Dutton. “I think all Australians want us to have a safer society. The Government has worked very hard to make sure that our borders are secure. If you have secure borderers, you can have safe communities, and we are going to continue the work to cancel, under Section 501, people’s visas, non-citizens’ visas if they’ve committed criminal offences and if that’s the case they’ll be deported as quickly as possible.”
Up to 1,000 citizens from New Zealand are believed to be in line for deportation. Some have lived in Australia most of their lives.