Criminals from New Zealand who have spent months under COVID-19 lockdown at Australian detention centres will be deported as early as Tuesday.
Up to 30 inmates will be sent to a secret CBD hotel under police and military escort for 14 days of quarantine before being flown out of the country, according to the ABC.
Deporting criminals has been a simmering issue between the two Trans-Tasman neighbours with New Zealand’s prime minister catching Scott Morrison off-guard with the topic at a February 28 meeting.
Jacinda Ardern criticised the coalition government policy to send Kiwis who commit crimes back to New Zealand no matter how long they have lived in Australia.
She claimed the policy was ‘corrosive’ to the friendship of the two nations and argued those who have lived in a country for ten years should remain there if they run foul of the law.
NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Australian PM Scott Morrison (pictured) attend a meeting before their February 28 press conference in Sydney where the issue was raised
Shane Martin (pictured, right) the father of AFL star Dustin Martin (left) was deported to NZ in 2016 over drug and assault convictions
Filipa Payne, co-founder of advocacy group Iwi in Australia which supports New Zealanders in the country, told the ABC she was aware of prisoners being informed to be ready to leave the country on Tuesday.
She said: ’30 people will be removed from Australia, from Villawood Detention Centre, Melbourne Detention Centre and Brisbane Detention Centre.’
Ms Payne claimed the prisoners had received notes telling them to be ready to fly out of the country on Tuesday or Wednesday but no further information.
‘The men deserve to have some information given to them. What services are going to be provided to them, what is expected of them?,’ she asked.
Australian Border Force said COVID-19 had not stopped the deportation of people out of Australia though it had slowed the process.
‘The Australian Border Force continues to work closely with New Zealand authorities to return eligible New Zealand citizens currently accommodated in immigration detention in Australia,’ a spokesperson said.
The latest round of deportations appears to have triggered renewed debate over the issue with New Zealand’s Health Minister Chris Hipkins addressing the policy on Radio NZ on Monday.
‘These are people who have committed crimes in Australia, they’ve lived in Australia, many of them only have a very minor connection to New Zealand, and our view is that the Australian Government shouldn’t be deporting them,’ he said.
‘We’re receiving them because we’re obliged to receive them, but it would be wrong to say we’re happy about it.’
New Zealander Joel Morehu-Barlow (pictured) spent five years behind bars after he pleaded guilty in 2013 to stealing money from his employer, Queensland Health, over four years
Deporting criminals has been a simmering issue between the two Trans-Tasman neighbours with New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern catching Scott Morrison off-guard with the topic at a February 28 press conference (pictured)
His arguments echo those of Ms Ardern who told the February press gathering in Australia, where she spoke alongside Scott Morrison, that she was against the policy.
‘Send back genuine Kiwis, do not deport your people and your problems,’ she told Mr Morrison and reporters during the tense conference.
‘You have deported more than 2,000 individuals, and among them will be genuine Kiwis who do need to learn the consequences of their actions.’
‘But among those 2,000 are individuals who are too young to become criminals on our watch, they were too young to become patched gang members, too young to be organised criminals.
‘We will own our people. We ask that Australia stops exporting theirs.’
‘I want to conclude by just reaffirming something I have said often. We will continue to maintain rights for Australians in New Zealand.’
Mr Morrison shot the Kiwi PM an awkward glance, before responding: ‘We deport non-citizens who have committed crimes in Australia.’
‘If you’ve committed a crime and you’re not a citizen of Australia then you have no right to stay.’
‘We deport non-citizens who have committed crimes in Australia against our community.’
NOTABLE NZ CITIZENS DEPORTED OVER CRIMINAL CONVICTIONS
New Zealander Joel Morehu-Barlow:
A fake Tahitian prince fraudster who siphoned $16million from the state government. He was deported in February after his release from prison.
Shane Martin, father of Richmond AFL star Dustin Martin:
First sent packing in 2016 with officials citing his criminal record, which included drug trafficking and assault charges.
The 52-year-old claimed he has a grandmother with indigenous heritage after Australian government passed a law which forbids any Aboriginal person from being deported.
The former Rebels outlaw motorcycle gang president tried to re-enter Australia in 2020 but was turned back at the border.