Government says 'sorry' for recent immigration visits likened to 'Dawn Raids'

A report into recent 'Dawn Raid' tactics on migrant overstayers has slammed the Government's historic apology to the Pasifika community for past abuses as hollow.

It says to truly end the practice of raiding homes 'after hours,' the law needs to change. But the Immigration Minister says that's not possible before the election.

Two years ago, the Government stood in front of the Pasifika community and said sorry for the discrimination and the trauma of the 'Dawn Raids' in the 70s. But what was missing was, we will stop.

Pakilau Manase Lua was a child of the Dawn Raids.

"The first word that comes to mind is tokenistic. If you are really sorry about something and you end up using another culture's beautiful practices to express your sorrow, you better damn well make sure it is sincere," he said

In April, a Tongan overstayer working in construction was arrested at dawn in front of one of his kids.

"You had a Government who apologised for it and then just did it again to the very people who they were apologising to," Lua said.

He said it was "very re-traumatising". 

Immigration Minister Andrew Little said he was "sorry" and "regretful".

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's chief executive Carolyn Tremain said the agency apologised for "causing distress within the community".

Michael Heron KC was called in for a review. He found since the Dawn Raids apology in 2021, 34 people have been deported as a result of raids 'after-hours'. Three were Pasifika, most were Chinese.

Tremain doesn't accept the latest activity is akin to the Dawn Raids. 

"I think the Dawn Raids were a particular style of activity."

Heron was scathing of the Government for not changing its ways, saying: "We agree with the Pasifika community that an apology for behaviour, aspects of which continue after the apology, does appear to ring hollow."

Top leadership attended the apology in person.

"At the time of the apology we did do quite a bit of work internally just talking about the apology," Tremain said. 

But nothing actually changed. Immigration NZ says it was because at the time of the apology, Auckland was in lockdown.

"I suspect by way of explanation it just reduced in terms of prioritisation with other work that we had to do at that time," said Tremain. 

Little said he is "very regretful" that action wasn't taken to change guidelines.

Changing its practices is now a priority.

"Today we expect all interactions of our officers to be conducted in a professional and respectful manner," she said. 

But Lau said: "When you're trying to detain someone at six in the morning and take them out of their own home, that's a Dawn Raid."