The Dominion Post

Deportees planning legal action

- George Block george.block@stuff.co.nz

Many of their lives were torn apart when they were deported to New Zealand under Australia’s hard-line immigratio­n policy. Now they’re fighting back. A group of ‘‘501’’ deportees met at a church hall in Auckland last night.

The group planned to resolve to take a class action lawsuit against the Australian Government over their treatment.

The effort has been organised by Filipa Payne, founder of the Iwi n Aus and Route 501 groups, who advocates for the deportees. Tauranga lawyer Craig Tuck is understood to be on board with the action.

The meeting of the support group began about 7pm. Shortly after, the meeting crossed to a man on Christmas Island, the site of a major Australia detention centre.

Payne told the meeting while the plight of the deportees was becoming more widely known, there remained limited awareness of the conditions deportees faced while in detention before being sent across the Tasman.

‘‘That’s the trauma New Zealand is not connecting with,’’ she said. ‘‘It’s the responsibi­lity of New Zealand society to step up and help fix this trauma.’’

One deportee said he hoped the class action would help shut down detention centres, such as the one on Christmas Island.

Another recent deportee said he lived on the streets of Christchur­ch after being deported and separated from his children.

‘‘It’s a big shock coming back to nothing.’’

The deportees are known as 501s, after the character section of the Australian Migration Act allowing their visas to be cancelled.

‘‘It’s the responsibi­lity of New Zealand society to step up and help fix this trauma.’’ Filipa Payne

Non-Australian citizens sentenced to 12 months in prison are subject to deportatio­n – no matter how long since they completed their sentence.

Most have criminal records and many have lived in Australia for most of their lives, and are uprooted, tearing families apart.

The policy is believed to have led to a spike organised crime in New Zealand.

The amendment to Australia’s Migration Act took effect in 2014.

More than 300 New Zealanders have been deported from Australia since internatio­nal borders closed due to Covid-19.

The deportees included a 15-year-old boy, sent back under the hard line policy in March.

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