'It's tough': Richie Barnett on his role mentoring deported Kiwis

Former rugby league star Richie Barnett has opened up about his role mentoring Kiwis who have been deported from Australia back to New Zealand. 

"It's quite a big and complicated issue," says Mr Barnett, telling The AM Show on Tuesday deportees are coming back to New Zealand with "a number of issues," and there is often no understanding of their health and wellbeing. 

More than a third of New Zealanders being deported back under Australia's tough immigration laws are going on to commit crimes. Figures show more than 3000 of the roughly 14,000 sent back have committed crimes including burglary, drug offences, assaults and sex crimes. 

"I think it's tough, period, to be shifted out of the country that you were pretty much born and bred [in and] sent back because you don't have citizenship," said the former Warriors fullback, who works as a mentor for the Prisoners' Aid and Rehabilitation Society (PARS).

Changes to the Australian Migration Act in December 2014 have enabled the deportation of suspected or convicted criminals. The only support the deportees receive is from PARS, an Auckland-based charity. 

"PARS are doing a great job of trying to support [deportees] and get them on their feet and have a softer landing into [New Zealand] so that they can then plan what [to do] next," Mr Barnett told The AM Show. "These people often have no family ties or connection."

Australia and New Zealand have clashed over the deportation issue. In July, Justice Minister Andrew Little slammed Australia's deportation laws, telling ABC's Foreign Correspondent they lack "humanitarian ideals". 

Mr Little said it's "improper" for New Zealanders who identify as Australian residents - because "that's where they've done their living" - to be deported from the country they identify as home. He said it is "a breach of human rights". 

In one case, a 17-year-old boy committed suicide after being deported back to New Zealand after spending time in an Australian prison, Mr Barnett told The AM Show. He said the boy had no connection to New Zealand having spent most of his life in Australia. 

"It's quite a big issue. We just have to deal with it and do the best we can," he said, adding the New Zealand Government should push back harder against Australia's deportation laws.  


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