New Zealanders held in immigration detention

New Zealanders in Australian Immigration Detention
Comparison of Iranian and New Zealand men held in Australian Immigration detention between March 2019 and February 2020. (Source: Dept of Home Affairs)
Date last modified: 14 April 2020

New Zealanders have been the highest number of any nationality held in Australian immigration detention centres since June 2016. The number of Iranians increased 25 percent in mid-2019 to a total of 210, compared 141 New Zealanders.

As at 29 February 2020 155, or 10.8 per cent, of the 1,440 people in immigration detention were from New Zealand. There were 141 New Zealand men compared to 210 Iranian men. Only 14 New Zealand women are detained in immigration detention.

In May 2018 it was revealed that a New Zealand youth had been held in Immigration detention since March 2018. He was released in July 2018 and returned to his family in Sydney after winning his appeal. The New Zealand government has criticised Home Affairs Minister Dutton for detaining a minor with the intention of deporting him.

The number of New Zealanders held in immigration detention has grown since an amendment to Section 501 of the Migration Act (1958) in December 2014. A non-citizen sentenced 12 months or more, whether served or suspended, can now have their visa cancelled and be deported. The legislation is retrospective, and includes cumulative sentencing totalling 12 months.

Deportation orders can take more than 6 months to be processed. Some detainees have no criminal convictions but are members of “bikie” gangs. Others have a drink driving offence or have breached bail conditions. Their community ties are not taken into account, such as:

  • having arrived in Australia as a minor
  • time spent living in Australia
  • having an Australian partner and Australian children
  • working or operating a business
  • owning a home.

Oz Kiwi does not condone criminal behaviour. However, being held in immigration detention can deny people their human rights, such as access to a lawyer, seeing their family, or delay processing of their appeal.

The Migration Act enables the Minister for Immigration to grant detainees a Bridging Visa (BVE) and home detention, if they are not a flight risk. Unfortunately, very few New Zealanders are granted a Bridging Visa. The Minister may be reticent to exercise such discretion for violent offences or sexual crimes against children.

Download a PDF of the statistics for:

New Zealanders in Immigration detention June 2018 to May 2019

Source: Department of Home Affairs, Immigration detention statistics

Key visa cancellation statistics

Information for people arrested or detained in Australia


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