Australia deporting criminal to New Zealand who has never set foot there

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Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said last month that Australia should only be deporting criminals with genuine links to New Zealand.

14 January 2018

Australia will deport a convicted criminal to New Zealand who has never set foot on our shores.

It comes after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said last month Australia should only be deporting New Zealand-born criminals who still have genuine links to New Zealand.

Alex Viane, 40, was born in American Samoa and became a New Zealand citizen as a child, but never entered the country.

Helen Murphy, PARS

Helen Murphy, of Prisoners’ Aid and Rehabilitation Society (PARS), says deportees are having their “whole history wiped out. It breaks my heart. It’s draconian stuff”. (Photo: John Kirk-Anderson/Stuff)

He went to Australia as a teenager on a temporary visa, and over a span of 25 years was convicted, and in some cases jailed, for several crimes.

In July last year, Australia’s minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Peter Dutton, cancelled Viane’s visa on character grounds.

A decision from Justice Robert Bromwich released by the Federal Court of Australia on Friday, dismissed an application from Viane for a judicial review of his visa cancellation.

Viane’s hand-written application to revoke the cancellation of his visa was reproduced in the court decision.

Jacinda Ardern has been critical of the mass deportation of criminals with with few or no ties to New Zealand. (Photo: Chris McKeen/Stuff)

“My parents are Australian citizens and I came to Australia with them in 1990 from Samoa,” he wrote.

“I have no family or supportive networks in New Zealand. I have never been to New Zealand, I have no immediate family or support. I will have no hope of contributing positively to their society.”

Viane has an Australian partner and a baby daughter, the decision said in its overview of the case.

In the decision, Justice Bromwich found that Viane “has no support network in New Zealand and will be separated from his children, partner and family”.

However, he said Viane “will have access to similar social services and healthcare support as other citizens of New Zealand”.

“I also find that after some initial difficulty, Mr Viane will have the opportunity to establish a lifestyle comparable to that of other citizens of New Zealand,” the judge continued.

Justice Bromwich concluded Viane represented “an unacceptable risk of harm to the Australian community” and the protection of the Australian community “outweighed the best interests of his child and other minor family members”.

The decision did not describe the nature of Viane’s crimes.

In a written plea to the judge, the 38-year-old Viane said an alcohol addiction had “caused all his troubles”.

“I have never set foot in New Zealand and I am extremely concerned that if I am sent there I will not be able to contribute to my daughters or partners lives.”

Figures released to Stuff showed that a quarter of the thousands of New Zealanders forced out of Australia since 2015 have gone on to rack up convictions on this side of the Tasman.

Ardern said those who had strong links to New Zealand were less likely to offend than those who did not have an established support network.

“The point that we’ve always made is … about making sure those who were only genuinely affiliated, and had roots here in New Zealand, were being deported,” she said.

“There are a number of contested cases where it is very clear that those individuals who are being deported actually have very firm connections, very firm roots in Australia.”

PARS, formerly known as the Prisoners’ Aid and Rehabilitation Society, say Viane’s case is not an isolated one.

Helen Murphy, who leads the Christchurch branch of the organisation, said it was more common for “501s” – the nickname given to deportees –  to be sent to New Zealand with nothing than most realise.

“They’ve had to leave a country they didn’t want to leave and have had left families behind, they’re refugees as far as I’m concerned.”

Most have no New Zealand paperwork and require IRD numbers so they can receive benefits and open a bank account.

They are clothed, fed and given help to create CVs in order to look for work.

Often they are men who have served their time and have rebuilt their lives, Murphy said.

“It’s more than just family missing, it’s their whole history wiped out. It breaks my heart. It’s draconian stuff.”

Duty minister Tracey Martin said it “wasn’t [her] place” to comment on Australian government policy, but that the New Zealand government was looking at whether deportees were getting enough support.

“We want to see people well supported when they return to New Zealand, which can be a particular challenge if they don’t have firm roots here,” she said in a statement to Stuff.

Deportees are met by a Probation Officer at the airport, who in addition to making sure they are complying with any special conditions on their order, work with PARS or other support agencies to help them settle, she said.

People on Returning Offender Orders can receive accommodation costs for up to 12 weeks, help finding long term accommodation, jobs, and may be referred to alcohol, drug and anti-violence programmes.

There have been around 560 people on Returned Offenders Orders.

[Read the Sunday Star Times article].


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