30 May 2016

Sick NZ detainee kept locked up, told to 'make will'

8:31 pm on 30 May 2016

A man wanting to be deported to New Zealand fears he will instead die of a heart attack, blocked from leaving Australia because he's a witness in a murder trial.

Sad person in jail

Tamati has been told that he won't be deported to New Zealand while he is still needed as a witness in a murder trial (file picture). Photo: 123RF

The detainee who is in his 60s, said the Immigration Department was asking him to make a will, while it kept him locked up.

Tamati said doctors had told him his heart was working at just 20 percent of what it should be. RNZ News has agreed not to use the man's surname.

He signed up 11 months ago to be deported, after spending five months at the Villawood detention centre in Sydney, saying he was jailed for seven months before that for assault.

That was last June, the same month he appeared as a witness in a murder trial in northern New South Wales.

He had shared a house with the murder victim and the accused, and found the body.

But the trial in the New South Wales Supreme Court has been put on hold.

New South Wales Director of Public Prosecutions says it is alleged a woman was bashed to death, and the man, as a Crown witness, must stay in Australia until the trial has been finalised.

It has refused to give RNZ News any idea of when that might be.

Tamati wonders if the police think he had something to do with the crime and are trying to gather evidence.

He said his doctor had told him the Immigration Minister would not deport him while he was still needed as a witness.

"I have got to wait for another year or so for this trial to come," he said.

"The doctor reckons I'm not going to last that long. The doctors have told me that my life expectancy isn't very long now.

"My heart only runs 20 percent while the Average Joe, his heart runs 80 to 90 percent. I could die any day and they don't care."

Tamati had his visa cancelled for having been sentenced to more than 12 months in jail, most recently for assault on a Villawood guard who he claims shared his confidential medical information with others.

He said his most recent of 20 heart attacks was three weeks ago and since then the medical care had improved, but that the word from his doctor was bleak.

"He told me Immigration is aware of my situation, [that] my heart's stuffed. And they want me to make a will, and to carry on as is, locked in here."

The man said there was no way he was making a will.

He's lived in Australia for four decades but said his adult daughters were so angry at his treatment they had renounced their citizenship, and moved to New Zealand in the expectation he would be deported.

He said they didn't know how sick he was, and he wanted to be there face to face to tell them.

He said he would sign an agreement to return to Australia to be a witness at the trial.

"Course I would, if I make it, if I'm still alive."

Dave Martin helps run the group Prisoner Alliance Queensland and has visited many prisons and immigration detainees.

He said Tamati's was a bad situation to be in.

"A prison or detention centre's the last place you want to be because they don't have a choice in their medical care," said Mr Martin.

"My experience in Queensland prisons is that prisoners routinely would say that the doctors don't have the proper qualifications or they just weren't getting proper treatment."

Mr Martin said there was little if any sympathy in Australia for "501 detainees" (people detained under section 501 of the Migration Act), even though some had no criminal convictions, and the others had all served their sentences.

Christchurch GP Jeremy Baker sees many of the immigration deportees to that city.

He said this man's treatment in Sydney - being kept for months in indefinite detention - would only be stressful and bad for his heart.

"It saddens me on two counts - the sense of contravention of human rights, and second, the inability to get the right care, whether that's mental or physical. I find that abhorrent."

Tamati does not have a lawyer and said he had not approached New Zealand consular officials as he doubted they could or would do anything.

A week ago Morning Report heard from another New Zealander held in Villawood, who blamed poor medical care for his leg getting so badly infected he may still lose it, and he said consular officials had been ineffectual and had not bothered to visit detainees.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) has said that when medical concerns are raised with consular staff, they bring them to the attention of authorities.

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