Aussie deportation law 'discrimination against Kiwis'

Aussie deportation law 'discrimination against Kiwis'

Yesterday, 3 News looked at the plight of New Zealanders who'd served their time in Australian prisons and are now being held in detention centres before being sent home.

Today, it can be revealed that even Kiwis who have long finished their sentence can be picked up and held indefinitely before being kicked out of the country.

As part of new hard-line immigration laws, Australia is rounding up foreigners who don't pass a character test and cancelling their visas.

That's anyone who's served prison terms adding up to 12 months or more - and it doesn't matter how long ago. 

"You could argue in some ways being deported is a worse form of punishment because it does break up families and ruins relationships," says Greg Barns of the Australian Lawyers Alliance.

Australian Immigration Minister Peter Dutton introduced the new law last December. Since then 406 Kiwis have had their visas cancelled, 184 more are in detention centres.

The Immigration Minister says foreign criminals are now on notice and will automatically have their visas cancelled. Controversially that also goes for people who were convicted prior to the law being changed - meaning those who served their time and were released years ago can still be deported.

Mr Barns says it's discrimination against Kiwis and they're being punished twice.

"They've been sentenced by the courts, they've done their time they're living in the Australian community, they've got no connection with New Zealand. And they're now suddenly finding themselves getting letters many years later indicating that the minister intends to revoke their visa and send them back to New Zealand," he says.

Last night 3 News brought you the case of convicted criminal Angela Russell. She moved to Australia when she was three and has had two children there. Now 40, she has no ties to New Zealand but is facing deportation. 

"I'm not a New Zealander, in New Zealand's eyes as well. I'm Australian in their eyes. This is my country," says Angela Russell.

She's been locked up in the Wickham Detention Centre in Darwin for six months - twice as long as her latest sentence for shop lifting $1200 worth of cosmetics. It was her fifth offence.

"It is in fact indefinite detention because they can't even say when a decision is going to come down with her case," says immigration lawyer Lyma Nyugen.

Prime Minister John Key described the New Zealanders as collateral damage of the new laws, and is seeking clarification on the law changes.

But Ms Russell says not knowing what's happening is unbearable.

"It's like the light at the end of the tunnel - in prison you know. In detention there's no light at the end of the tunnel that I can see."

A dark future is all she can see right now, and she's not alone.

3 News