Kelvin Davis waiting to view detention centre

  • 18/10/2015
Labour MP Kelvin Davis (Getty)
Labour MP Kelvin Davis (Getty)

By Lydia Anderson

Labour MP Kelvin Davis is waiting on Christmas Island to hear if he'll be granted access to an Australian detention centre where Kiwis are being held.

Mr Davis arrived on the island at 11am local time yesterday, and hand delivered a request to look inside the centre where about 40 Kiwis are being held while they wait to be sent back to New Zealand.

Concerns have grown about Australia's immigration policy, which came into effect in December, under which anyone who isn't an Australian citizen and who has served a prison sentence of 12 months or more can be deported, potentially affecting about 1000 New Zealanders.

Although Prime Minister John Key pushed for exemptions for New Zealanders in his first bilateral talks with his Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull yesterday, the Australian leader refused to budge.

Mr Davis told NZ Newswire today he's been talking to detainees over the phone and has heard of worrying conditions.

They told him of fellow detainees self-harming and committing suicide, and one told of being beaten by an emergency response team in a case of mistaken identity.

Viewing the detention centre from a hilly outlook, it appeared to be a "standard prison", he said.

"The thing that strikes me about flying into Christmas Island is just how far away it is from anything."

It was a 20hr flight from Sydney, where some of the detainees were from.

"To me that's just absolutely inhumane to separate people that far from their families, their loved ones, their legal advice."

He was expecting to hear soon whether he would be allowed in, but said he would not be surprised if Australian authorities delayed a response.

He said even if he was not granted access, it was not a wasted trip, as the detainees were heartened by the growing international attention to their situation.

"If we don't get, all is not lost."

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