18 Oct 2015

Turnbull talks disappointing - detainees' lawyer

9:33 am on 18 October 2015

A lawyer representing New Zealanders detained in Australia says the outcome of talks between the countries' leaders is disappointing.

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Photo: RNZ/Demelza Leslie

At talks in Auckland yesterday Prime Minister John Key discussed the deportation policy under which hundreds of New Zealanders with criminal convictions had their visas revoked.

Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull said no special dispensations would be given to New Zealanders facing deportation in Australia.

Lawyer Craig Tuck has two clients being detained in Christmas Island and Sydney who were hoping for more.

"Well the outcome is a wet tea towel really. Because nothing has changed except as I understand it they are going to speed up the appeal process which may or may not put more resources into it.

"But clearly the timeframes are extended now. It's open ended, it would be good to hear some specifics about how that is going to be dealt with," Mr Tuck said.

University of Otago law professor Mark Henaghan said the talks were hopeless.

Professor Henaghan said the situation was intolerable, and the talks went nowhere with little leeway from the Australian prime minister.

"I think basically he is saying we are doing the best we can, but at the end of the day he is not prepared to speed up the process. And there doesn't seem to be any explanation coming from Australia as to why the process is taking this long.

"Obviously deportation requires some paperwork and things to be carried out. But it seems incredible that the paperwork would take years."

Labour Party Leader, Andrew Little.

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Labour said it was encouraged Australia was taking steps to speed up the appeal process for those facing deportation.

Leader Andrew Little said a simpler, quicker appeal process was helpful, but warned there was still a major issue about the discretion being exercised for those subject to deportation.

"What we are seeing is people who have been born in New Zealand but left in childhood, grown up there, gone to school there, to all intents and purposes Australian. But when they offend and do a prison sentence, and are subject to deportation, they are effectively sent back to a country they have no links to."

John Key confident fewer kiwis will be held

Mr Key said he was reasonably confident progress could be made on the subject of New Zealanders awaiting deportation in Australian detention centres.

He said more resources being put into speeding up the appeal process for those wanting to stay in Australia should help bring down the number of New Zealand detainees.

"When somebody's visa is revoked, that happens early on in the process and actually they know the outcome of that by the time they finish their sentence in prison and therefore they don't need to go to a detention centre."

Mr Key said he hoped Australia would take on board this country's call for compassion for some of the affected New Zealanders.

Mr Turnbull said New Zealanders who had their visas revoked could choose to return home rather than be detained.

He said New Zealand citizens who committed crimes in Australia would not receive special dispensation from immigration laws.

But he said they were free to return to New Zealand and undertake their appeal to the Immigration Minister from there.

"They are able to travel to New Zealand. They are able to undertake their appeal to the Minister from New Zealand. And so there is no need for any New Zealander whose visa has been revoked and is in detention in Australia to stay there."