Jacinda Ardern urged to 'hold the Australian government accountable' for 'horror' Christmas Island detention centre

A Kiwi advocating for Christmas Island detainees is calling on Jacinda Ardern to take a stand against the immigration detention centre and "hold the Australian government accountable".

The detention centre, which is located 2600 kilometres from Perth, has housed hundreds of New Zealanders since a law change in 2014 allowed foreign visas to be cancelled at the discretion of Australian officials.

The detainees are held at the centre while they await deportation or go through an appeal process.

Jacinda Ardern famously called the policy "corrosive" to the New Zealand-Australia relationship in 2019 but hasn't spoken specifically on the Christmas Island Deportation Centre.

Iwi in Australia co-founder Filipa Payne said she had written to the Prime Minister demanding action about the centre, which has been described as similar to a concentration camp.

"The Prime Minister at this stage has not responded to my email," she told The AM Show on Friday.

"I had a generic response from I believe her secretary stating that this was outside of the Prime Minister's portfolio. My response is integrity, kindness and human rights fall outside of no political portfolio."

She said Ardern needs to get on the phone to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and to the United Nations.

"We've had this effect many many families in New Zealand and it's time for NewZealand to stop worrying about trade, to stop worrying about finances and start worrying about our brothers, sisters and all people in all detention centres in Australia...

"It's up to New Zealand to hold the Australian Government accountable."

Payne told The AM Show many people in the detention centre had only incurred minor offences or have "done nothing wrong".

"A lot of people are in there for association, character tests. How we can judge someone of their character outside of a judicial system is absolutely amazing to me. 

"Some people are in there for minor offences [such as] driving offences, graffiti, shoplifting. We often hear it's the worst of the worst, the gang members, the pedophiles and stuff like that but they are the minority."

Christmas Island Detainee spokesperson Frank Leone agreed.

"The Government's saying is the worst of the worst but look we tell you the truth is there are people here with misdemeanours," he said.

"They've made a mistake sure, they've been to jail for a few months but they've paid the price and now all of a sudden they are stuck into an immigration centre while they wait for their court case which can take several years."

Leone described the detention centre as a "horror".

"[It's] the worst place you could be, it's very similar to a concentration camp."

He said the detainees are locked in a unit for 22 hours a day, only get one hour of exercise and the food is "terrible".

There is also no connection to the outside world and detainees aren't able to talk to their families, children or lawyers - "we've got none of that".