Australia's treatment of deportees 'racist', deportees say

Broken, broke and exhausted. 

Adrian Solomon is home after 39 years in Australia. He's spent the last two years behind bars, in jail and in Australia's notorious detention centres.

Despite having little to no support here, Solomon signed on to come home. 

"When you've been in detention for the amount of time I was you're either going to go nuts in there or sign to get out, and that's actually what it came down to."

Many of the deportees are suffering, traumatised by the treatment in the centres. 

"I was scared, I was emotional."

He landed in Christchurch the day before The Hui visited and was struggling to open the curtains of his emergency accommodation. 

"All I wanted to do was get in this room and shut that door."

Asked what he's been doing in the first few hours of freedom, he said he'd been crying and soul-searching. Solomon said the detention centre was cruel and inhumane and jail was easier. He is deeply concerned for the men he's left behind. 

Adrian Solomon.
Adrian Solomon. Photo credit: The Hui

Government response

Long-term residents deemed to pose a threat to Australia can be thrown out. It's an issue our Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has raised with Australia, but with little success. 

Australia argues the policy is about keeping Australians safe and it targets only serious criminals who commit violent and sexual acts or breach family violence orders. But the Prime Minister told MediaWorks the rate of recidivism among those deported is 40 percent less than New Zealand's current recidivism rate where 70 percent of prisoners reoffend. Ardern said the major offences committed by the deportees are traffic and dishonesty.

Supporting 501S

Filipa Payne works with Iwi in Oz and is supporting Solomon. In many cases Payne has been the only contact for the deportees. 

"It's the first three weeks that they come back is actually generally the hardest because they've got to be able to get a bank account, they've got to get a tax number, and a place to live and they've got to do all of that before they source an income." 

For some it's too much.

"We've had people that have come back and unfortunately committed suicide in a very short time of being here."

She questions the Anzac relationship, having been raised in a family which served the forces. 

Filipa Payne.
Filipa Payne. Photo credit: The Hui

Settling in

Quenten Hadfield has been home for four weeks. 

Like Solomon, he also signed to come home.

"I rang my mother and I turned around and said to her, 'I don't know how long I can keep going in here for. I don't think I can last much longer.' She felt it and she knew it and I decided to sign, to go back home." 

It was no easy decision. He's left three generations of family behind in Australia, but he's happy to be out of the detention centre which he describes as unbearable.

"There are a lot of people that committed suicide in there, there's things that I can't really say on camera cause it's too hard. These places are built based purely to mentally and psychologically trying to break you until you sign to go back. They will not say that themselves and it won't be written in any of their policies but it's what the place is designed to do."

Iwi want answers

Many New Zealanders have knowledge of the 501s, including Hadfield's Kahunguunu iwi leader, Ngahiwi Tomoana. 

Today they're meeting at the iwi headquarters in Hastings to sign up as a member. 

After listening to Hadfield's story, Tomoana wants to know how many other Ngaati Kahunguunu members have been sent back and he wants authorities to inform him.

He admits he had a jaded view of the 501s.

"We get told that everybody coming back from Australia they're the head of the Comancheeros or something and they're bringing back bags of P and selling it."

Hadfield said that's not him. He said he was convicted in association with a domestic dispute when he wrongfully entered his ex-partner's house to collect his possessions. 

"I discussed with her to get my belongings back, the police turned up, I explained myself to them and I was charged with aggravated burglary."

Tomoana said his iwi has the provisions to support its people, but they can't help if they don't know.

"We have the luxury of looking at it from afar and even though I've got two children and four mokopuna there, we're still looking at it from afar but it seems draconian, seems brutish and it seems racist." 

The meeting with the iwi has lifted Hadfield's spirits, and while he's settling in it'll be without his family, a sentence he says is unjust.

The Hui