Green Party MP Chlöe Swarbrick slams dawn-raid style tactics, says there should be pathway to residency for overstayers

David Seymour and Chlöe Swarbrick have clashed over their views as to whether overstayers in New Zealand should be given amnesty.

Dawn-raid style tactics are back in the headlines after a construction worker was removed from his home by police and immigration officials last month as his four scared children watched on, an Auckland community lawyer said. 

That's despite, in 2021, the Government apologising for racially targeted immigration raids on Pacific Islanders in the 1970s - otherwise known as the "dawn raids". 

MBIE chief executive Carolyn Tremain announced on Friday the pause on out-of-hours compliance checks for people who had overstayed their visas.

But this hasn't stopped debate ragging over if dawn-raid style tactics should be used. Deputy Prime Minister Carmel Sepuloni put Immigration New Zealand on notice saying the Government didn't want officials "acting in a way where they are re-traumatising our Pacific community".

Green Party MP Chlöe Swarbrick told AM on Monday it's "absolutely abysmal" that these tactics are still being used while National Party leader Christopher Luxon said officials need to "reserve the option" to use the tactic should they be needed to catch illegal immigrants.

As of March, Immigration New Zealand estimated there were about 14,000 overstayers in Aotearoa. 

Immigration Minister Michael Wood said he's taking advice on granting amnesties to the 14,000 people estimated to have overstayed their visas and will make a decision on the issue "quite soon". 

When asked if the Government should approve amnesties to the estimated 14,000 overstayers, ACT leader David Seymour said the Government needs to be careful how they handle overstayers. 

"I think you've got to be a bit realistic here. Number one, think of all the people that go through enormous rigmarole and delay, a lot of real anxiety trying to emigrate legally and then all of a sudden, you say a whole lot of people who didn't do that well, we'll just give you a free pass. There's a question, is that fair? Seymour told AM co-host Laura Tupou on Monday.

ACT Party leader David Seymour.
ACT Party leader David Seymour. Photo credit: AM

Seymour said if the Government approves visas for overstayers it could have negative consequences for people wanting to visit New Zealand for a holiday. 

"Number two, we want a country that people can come and visit easily, no big questions at the airport, just let them through so they can visit their friends or have a holiday or whatever," Seymour said. 

"If you say every time someone goes awol, they're not going to leave and you're going to have to give them amnesty, what the Government's going to end up doing is putting more restrictions on people entering the country for casual reasons. 

"I actually think these people that break the law let everybody down and unfortunately, the Government does need to have the power to enforce the rules that it makes."

But Swarbrick took a different approach believing amnesty should be an option for overstayers. 

"I have to say that once again, David's point about our immigration system being broken and not working particularly well is absolutely an important one that I think electorate MPs, in particular, know particularly well, working with our constituents, trying to get access to those residential statuses," she said. 

"But again, we're not talking about people who are just coming on a holiday and deciding to sit back, relax and hang out here."

Green Party MP Chlöe Swarbrick.
Green Party MP Chlöe Swarbrick. Photo credit: AM

But Seymour clarified that he wasn't saying that every overstayer in New Zealand came for a holiday and didn't leave. 

"I'm sorry, that's not the claim. The point is that if people who enter the country are a risk that they will overstay, then what the Government will do is inevitably start asking more questions, making it harder to get a visa and restricting people's entry to the country," Seymour said. 

"So you guys can talk about whether or not these guys were on a holiday. My point is that if we allow some people to break the law, that means more rigmarole and more bureaucracy for everybody else. We face a trade-off here."

Watch the full interview with David Seymour and Chlöe Swarbrick in the video above.