Impact of Australia's 'cruel' deportations and number of 501 crimes in New Zealand revealed

Newshub can reveal 96 percent of deportations to New Zealand are from Australia, and those deportees - known as 501s - have committed thousands of serious crimes since being sent back.

Brad Sinoti spent 10 years in Australia raising his kids as Aussies but now he's alone after being deported back to New Zealand, his homeland. 

"I did six months in prison. I got a notice that my visa was cancelled when I was in there," Sinoti, 40, told Newshub. 

"I went into detention in Brisbane and I was only there for two weeks in Brisbane before they shipped me off to Christmas Island.

"I was pretty disappointed. I didn't get much time to organise like clothes and just stuff - my possessions that were left. When you go to jail, people take it as freebies and help themselves to your stuff.

"You don't just lose your freedom - you lose everything."

Sinoti was deported last year from Brisbane on drug charges. He's pushed himself back up on his feet, working as a jib fixer in Dunedin. But he misses his family. 

"It's pretty sad because I've got children there. They're the only ones I'm really concerned about. It's just like a life sentence. It's so hard, like I didn't even get to say goodbye to my kids, not even in Brisbane, before they shipped me off to Christmas Island. It's pretty sad for them, like I didn't even get to say goodbye.

"Sometimes you break down because you think about your kids. I guess you've just got to distract yourself every day you wake up and just forget that you are a 501."

Brad Sinoti.
Brad Sinoti. Photo credit: Newshub

Australia has sent thousands of Kiwis back to New Zealand since 2015 after controversial changes were made to section 501 of its Migration Act. 

Newshub can reveal 501s have been convicted of more than 8000 offences in New Zealand since 2015. The most were for dishonesty - more than 2000. Violent crimes made up 1387 offences, 861 convictions were for drugs and antisocial behaviour, and 57 were for sexual crimes. 

Police have been blaming 501s for our escalating gang problems.

"The gang environment has significantly changed as a result of returned offenders," Police Commissioner Andrew Coster told a parliamentary committee in December

Sinoti is not surprised. 

"It's the way of life they learnt over there. It just makes sense why New Zealand's turning out to be like Australia. It's because the culture's coming back here."

Former Labour MP and community lawyer Sue Moroney says 501s should get similar support as refugees when they arrive. 

"When we have refugees settled here in New Zealand, the New Zealand Government provides a really comprehensive resettlement programme for them," she told Newshub.

"These people arriving after being deported from Australia have no such system in place."

Community lawyer and former Labour MP Sue Moroney.
Community lawyer and former Labour MP Sue Moroney. Photo credit: Newshub

Refugees get six weeks' support at the Mangere Resettlement Centre in Auckland where they get help with integration, finding work and where to live.

New Zealand's first refugee MP, the Green Party's Golriz Ghahraman, sees merit in giving 501s better support to settle in.  

"I think the 501 deportees would have different needs. But it would be a start to actually acknowledge that we need to support that community to integrate into life here," Ghahraman told Newshub. 

Deportees who spent a year in prison overseas are supervised by a parole officer. But Sue Moroney says 501s often have complex existing legal issues and struggle to integrate. 

"The kickstart they give us is not enough," says Sinoti. 

Of the more than 2626 Kiwis sent back to New Zealand since 2015, about 96 percent - 2544 - were from Australia. The second-highest was the United States - 47 Kiwis sent back, representing about 2 percent. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has consistently made her position clear to Australia. 

"Do not deport your people and your problems," she said in February 2020, standing alongside her Australian counterpart Scott Morrison in Sydney.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her Australian counterpart Scott Morrison.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her Australian counterpart Scott Morrison. Photo credit: Getty Images

In a statement to Newshub, the Australian Border Force said over 94 percent of Kiwis deported since 2019 had done so voluntarily.

But it's not that simple, as Sue Moroney explains. 

"They are generally in those detention centres until they voluntarily agree to their visa cancellation which ends up in their deportation."

Sinoti, when asked if he felt he was treated fairly by the Australian authorities, told Newshub: "Absolutely not."

He just wanted a second chance to be with his kids.

"I didn't even get to say goodbye - It's pretty cruel," he said. "They're Australian. They'll probably be there for the rest of their lives. It's hard. Video calls are good but it's hard because it's not the same."

Australia's hardline position could soon get even harder. New legislation would permit more deportations leaving New Zealand with more to manage.

Newshub understands a number of government agencies in New Zealand are looking into what additional support 501s could be given when they arrive - but it's still in the early stages.