In New Zealand, long-simmering resentment is turning into red-hot anger over the secret deportation from Australia of a 15-year-old boy, alone, to a country he barely knows.
“The abuse that is happening under the Australian system, now child abuse, is horrible,” says Filipa Payne, co-founder of Route 501, an advocacy organization that helps people forcibly deported under strict immigration policies. Australian immigration. “New Zealanders are increasingly outraged by this, especially the deportation of a 15-year-old boy, people are beginning to understand how draconian these laws really are.”
But the boy transferred to New Zealand this month “will not be the last” deported by Australia, say advocates and lawyers, as Canberra’s punitive policy of forcibly expelling non-citizens continues to rise, despite travel restrictions. of the global pandemic.
Some 1,029 people were forcibly removed from Australia the last financial year, the second highest figure on record.
The number of deportations under the notorious Section 501 of the Australian Migration Act has increased nearly tenfold in less than a decade. In 2012-13 only 139 people were removed. In 2013-14, that number was just 76.
Little is known publicly about the boy’s case. Government sources say his situation is complex, and New Zealand’s social welfare group Oranga Tamariki has said it is preparing support for the boy when he comes out of the hotel quarantine.
The boy is known to have lived most of his life in Australia, although he has family in New Zealand and is a New Zealand citizen. The boy was taken alone from Australia.
It is not clear whether he was expelled under section 501 of the Migration Act, although Australian lawyers argue that, as a minor forcibly held in an immigration detention center, he cannot be considered to have volunteered as volunteer to leave.
There are also other sections of the law, such as section 116 – which give the Minister of the Interior broad undisputed powers to cancel visas and deport non-citizens.
New Zealand’s Commissioner for Children, Judge Andrew Becroft, said that based on information provided to him in a briefing, it appeared that Australia had breached its international legal obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. .
“It is the most signed convention in history, we can’t play fast and loose with that”He told Radio New Zealand.
“I think there are many reasons to conclude, from what I know at this time, that while two countries have signed that convention, only one is actually implementing and complying with it,” he said.
Becroft said it appeared that the boy’s interests were not considered preeminent in the decision to deport him, as mandated by the convention.
“Why put him on a plane alone, without support, to a country that I understand? We need to check this, it’s never been before.
“By any analysis, what we know so far seems scandalous to me.”
And the boy’s deportation has been met with mounting resentment in New Zealand, compounded by Australian Home Secretary Peter Dutton insisting that the forcible removal of non-citizens, such as the 15-year-old, for “reasons of character “It was simply Australia ‘taking out the garbage’.
Several in New Zealand who spoke to The Guardian for this story noted that Dutton made his comments on the anniversary of the Christchurch massacre, when an Australian citizen committed the most violent act in modern New Zealand history, murdering 51 people.
A spokesman for Australia’s department of home affairs says “non-citizens who do not have a valid visa will be held liable for detention and removal from Australia.”
“The department approaches the cancellation of juvenile visas with a high degree of caution and consultation, to ensure that all relevant factors are considered and that the approach is consistent with the expectations of the community and the government.”
Payne says he fears the 15-year-old’s deportation will not be his last.
“How and why did this child end up in a situation where he faced deportation? It starts with a child, but it doesn’t end with one. “
Payne says New Zealanders are systematically discriminated against by numerous Australian laws, leading to acute vulnerability, particularly among children.
New Zealand children cannot access the National Disability Insurance Scheme, despite the fact that all Australian taxpayers contribute to it, and since the 2001 legislative changes they are also isolated from social security, crisis housing and other fundamental supports.
“This leaves our children speechless, this leaves our children vulnerable, homeless and dangers like domestic violence,” says Payne.
“Our children in Australia have no political representation. For many New Zealanders, there is no fair path to permanent residence, they cannot obtain citizenship, they cannot vote.
Many of those deported from Australia to New Zealand as adults have lived most of their lives in Australia and consider themselves Australians, even if they have not formally adopted citizenship or have not been able to do so.
Politically, the problem has been a growing tension between Australia and New Zealand.
“Do not deport your people and your problems,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern publicly rebuked Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison last year, telling him that forced deportations were “corrosive” to the relationship of the countries. .
“I have heard countless cases of people [deported to NZ] that on any test of common sense they identify as Australian, ”Ardern said.
“I met a woman who moved to Australia not much older than a year. He told me that he had no connection to our country, but that he had three children in Australia. He was in a crisis center, after having returned to a country that he did not feel was his ”.
A spokesperson for the Australian Lawyers Alliance, Greg Barns SC, told The Guardian that it is “deeply disturbing that Australia will deport any child in circumstances where they are alone.”
“The secrecy attributed to it is again very disturbing: although it is convenient for the government to say that it is to protect the privacy of the child, it is of fundamental importance that there is transparency in the process.
“There is no doubt in our opinion that the convention on the rights of the child has been violated here. A child cannot be held in detention by an adult, and the best interests of the child must always come first and foremost. Clearly, that has not been the case here. “
The Australian Minister’s own legislation and guidelines, explicitly Address 65, signed by now Prime Minister Morrison, insists that the interests of the child must outweigh all other concerns.
Australia has previously tried to deport a minor. Barns helped a 17-year-old to successfully appeal his deportation.
Barns also says that the removal of the child could not be considered “voluntary”, even if he had agreed to go. The Guardian understands that the boy was being forcibly detained in Australia and faced continuous, potentially indefinite detention if he did not agree to leave the country.
“How can you say that he is a volunteer, he is a vulnerable 15-year-old boy, against a government that held him back? The circumstances are horrible. “
Meg de Ronde, Executive Director of Amnesty International Aotearoa New Zealand, says that many of those forcibly sent to New Zealand face “quite horrible” circumstances.
“Isolation from the family is incredibly difficult, people’s entire lives are in Australia: their partners, their children, everyone. There are big problems because many of these people have very few connections in New Zealand. The results are pretty horrible in many cases. “
Australia’s use of the provisions of its legislation on “proof of character” meant that some forced removals did not even require any criminality, says de Ronde. And he condemned the aggressive political rhetoric of Australian politicians.
“Dehumanization is such a worrying focus for Australia. I have to think that by constantly demonizing and pointing at people, ‘taking out the trash,’ this degrading language only exacerbates the trauma, shame, and humiliation of this. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism