16 Oct 2015

Human rights complaint over NZers' detention

7:11 pm on 16 October 2015

The Australian and New Zealand Green Parties are lodging a complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission about the detention and treatment of New Zealanders in Australia.

Erina Morunga outside the Australian High Commission in Wellington

Iwi n Aus founder Erina Morunga outside the Australian High Commission in Wellington. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

Under Australian law, non-citizens jailed for more than a year can be held indefinitely while a decision is made on whether to deport them.

Australian Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young

Senator Sarah Hanson-Young Photo: AAP

Prime Minister John Key is expected to raise the issue with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in talks tomorrow.

Mr Turnbull has arrived in Auckland and will have a private dinner with Mr Key tonight, before the more formal discussion tomorrow.

It is Mr Turnbull's first overseas visit as prime minister and commentators say his handling of the deportation issue will be an early test of his diplomacy skills, with pressure from his backbench to stand firm on border protection.

Australian Greens immigration spokesperson Senator Sarah Hanson-Young said it was clear that when the new law was introduced the Australian government had no idea how many New Zealanders would end up in detention.

"It's a test for Malcolm Turnbull as he visits New Zealand. Will he fix the problem or will he continue with Tony Abbott's brash, crass and hard over-reach on immigration?"

Ms Hanson-Young said her main concern was for the 100 New Zealanders being detained on Christmas Island.

New Zealand Green Party MP Catherine Delahunty said she hoped Mr Key would make a real effort in this weekend's talks.

"This is happening to us, to Kiwis, and this is happening in our backyard," she said.

"Malcolm Turnbull in his visit to New Zealand needs to be told very clearly that he can't treat - he shouldn't be treating anyone like this, it is all a breach of human rights - but actually, certainly, if he comes here, he should expect to hear a strong message - and we hope our prime minister will step up."

The Labour Party has also said New Zealanders facing deportation in Australia are being treated unfairly and need Mr Key to argue their case.

Protest in Wellington

A small group of protesters marched to Parliament this afternoon to call on Mr Key to demand better treatment for New Zealanders convicted in Australia.

Advocacy group 'Iwi n Aus' organised the protest. A spokesperson, Erina Morunga, said they wanted the two prime ministers to ensure New Zealanders were treated fairly.

"We totally oppose the practices of the Australian government in what they're doing to our people," she said.

"In particular it's because it's a humanity issue. They're mistreating our people and they're basically holding them without a real charge. They've cancelled their visa and they're now abusing them."

Ms Morunga said people in detention centres have done their time in prison and should not be left in limbo.

Protesters calling for better treatment for New Zealanders convicted in Australia arrive at Parliament on 16 October 2015. The protest was organised by 'Iwi n Aus'.

Protesters calling for better treatment for New Zealanders convicted in Australia arrive at Parliament. Photo: RNZ / Michael Cropp

Erina Morunga and protesters march from the Australian High Commission

The group started at the Australian High Commission (pictured) and marched from there to Parliament. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

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