Hundreds of Kiwis face deportation in Australia

Hundreds of Kiwis face deportation in Australia

Almost 200 New Zealanders are currently being held in Australian detention centres facing deportation and hundreds more have had their visas cancelled.

Changes to Australia's immigration laws have seen a massive increase of foreign criminals being deported, but the new hard-line stance is tearing families who have lived in Australia for decades apart.

Rahiri and Manaia Beddgood normally play with their father every day after school.

But since February they've barely seen him because he's locked up in a detention centre.

"It's really hard. I keep on crying when I leave him and stuff," says his daughter, Manaia Beddgood.

"It's really sad because we don't see him that much," says his son, Rahiri Beddgood.

Their grandmother has had to move from Whangarei to Darwin to look after them.

"It's very hard. I think it is worse than being in prison," says mother Margaret Beddgood.

Their dad pleaded guilty to cannabis supply and was sentenced to eight months in prison.

Just before he was due to be released in February he was transferred to the Wickham Point Detention Centre in Darwin, where he was told he would likely be deported.

"It's been very stressful. My kids have been suffering. They've been all over the place. Everyone's looking after them," says Beddgood.

He moved to Australia in 1999. His children were born there and have never been to New Zealand.

He has no idea if or when he'll be forced to return.

"It's just been drama after drama. It's been an emotional time for my kids, and it also puts a lot of emotional stress on myself," he says.

According to the Australian Immigration Minister, there are 184 New Zealanders in detention centres around Australia.

Another 406 have had their visas cancelled and 95 New Zealanders have already been sent home, which is a 660 percent increase on the previous year.

Tougher laws for foreign-born criminals were introduced in December, designed to target murderers, sex offenders and bikie gang members.

But anyone with a 12-month sentence and without Australian citizenship, no matter how long they've lived there, can be deported.

"It's cruel. You're seeing families being broken up. You're seeing grandparents being tossed out of the country and sent back to New Zealand, and it's been very, very cruel in many cases, and, as I say, utterly pointless," says Australian Lawyers Alliance's Greg Barns.

Angela Russell is also in the detention centre.

She was found guilty of shoplifting $1300-worth of cosmetics. It was her fifth offence.

So far she has spent six months there – twice as long as her sentence.

She moved to Australia when she was three years old. That was 37 years ago.

"I should be allowed to stay in Australia. Australia is my home. New Zealand's not my home; I was just born there. I've paid taxes in Australia. I've made two Australian children," says Russell.

Her 16-year-old daughter, who was born in Australia and has never been to New Zealand, is terrified she will be separated from her mum.

"It's pretty difficult because I don't know what day she's going to come home. I don't know what's happening, so it's like I can't do anything. I feel trapped like I can't even see Mum because it's just so far away," says Breanna Cuthbertson.

The same fear grips the Beddgood children. Despite their dad serving his time, they have no idea when he'll be out.

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