Coronavirus: COVID-19 halts Australia's deportation regime

Newshub can reveal Australia's regime of deporting New Zealanders has come to a halt due to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.

In an email provided to Newshub from a legal source, it notifies a lawyer their client being held in an Australian detention centre will not be sent to New Zealand this week.

"The Australian Border Force has suspended the removal operations to New Zealand effective as of midnight 16 March 2020, unfortunately your client's removal arrangements have been affected", the letter reads.

It goes on to say, "these measures take into account the rapidly evolving situation surrounding COVID-19, as well as the request of the New Zealand government and the operational requirements of this agency, including risks to its staff and contractors, which include the security escorts".

In a statement provided to Newshub, NZ Police say Australian Border Force, Border Control Operations, has advised New Zealand Police that planned removals up to March 30 2020 have been postponed.

The policy of deporting New Zealanders from Australia has soured relations between the two countries in recent years, and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern highlighted this issue when speaking alongside Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in Sydney in recent weeks.

"Do not deport your people and your problems," Ardern said at the time.

The man who led the 2014 law change, Australia's Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, suggested Ardern made the comments because she's heading into an election campaign, and he said he had no regrets about the thousands of Kiwi visas Australia had cancelled.

That led to Foreign Minister Winston Peters lashing out at Dutton on an Australian radio station. 

"When you send back people who have been in Australia since year one or year two, you've lost the plot," Peters told ABC Radio.

Between January 1, 2015, and February 2020, 2014 people were deported to New Zealand from Australia, and among them more than 6000 offences have been committed since arriving back.