Questions emerge after Kiwi prisoner death

  • 28/09/2015

The Government must seek an explanation from the Australian government about the "appalling" treatment of New Zealanders held in detention centres, Labour says.

Party leader Andrew Little says the death in custody of Junior Togatuki makes it an urgent issue.

"For the past week we have heard harrowing stories of New Zealand-born Australian residents, who have served their time, being shipped off in the dead of night to detention centres hundreds of miles away from their families," he said on Monday.

"These people are being denied basic rights like access to medical care and lawyers, their families cannot contact them and they have no idea how long they are going to be there."

About 200 New Zealanders are reported to be in the detention centres, rounded up since Australia changed its immigration laws in December.

Anyone who isn't an Australian citizen and who has served a jail sentence of 12 months or more can be deported.

Many Kiwis have already been deported, and the Government has been asking for information about those in the pipeline.

Prime Minister John Key, who is in New York, has said he intends raising the deportations and detentions with Australia's new Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull.

Junior Togatuki, 23, died two weeks ago in solitary confinement in Goulburn's Supermax Prison in New South Wales, more than a month after his sentence for armed robbery ended, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

He was waiting to be deported to New Zealand, the country he left when he was four.

Togatuki was suffering from schizophrenia and anxiety, and his death has been ruled a suicide.

Mr Little says the death was preventable.

"It's time our government stopped sitting back and watching this appalling treatment of New Zealand citizens, and sought an urgent clarification of Australia's policy," he said.

"It has the potential to damage the special relationship between Australia and New Zealand.

New Zealand's Human Rights Commission is urging anyone worried about loved ones in Australian detention centres to contact the commission's Australian counterpart.

The Australian Human Rights Commission has the mandate to investigate complaints about detention centres run by the Australian government, says chief commissioner David Rutherford.

Meanwhile the New Zealand's Human Rights Commission is urging anyone worried about loved ones in Australian detention centres to contact the commission's Australian counterpart.

The Australian Human Rights Commission has the mandate to investigate complaints about detention centres run by the Australian government, says chief commissioner David Rutherford.

He issued a statement on Monday morning following the news that Mr Togatuki had committed suicide while in solitary confinement.

A law change in Australia means all non-citizens who are jailed for at least a year have their visas cancelled and now there are 184 New Zealanders in immigration detention centres, which have been criticised for alleged human rights abuses.

Mr Rutherford says his office supports his Australian colleagues' calls for the centres to be closed.

"Wherever detention occurs, nations should do so in accordance with relevant international laws and obligations."

**Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline's 24-hour telephone counselling service on 0800 543 354, or the Samaritans on 0800 726 666.

NZN