South Auckland dawn raid criticised by Pacific community leader

Photo: Queensland Police Service

Pacific community leader is “appalled” that a Pasifika overstayer was detained in a dawn raid in South Auckland last month.

Police showed up at the Tongan national’s home at 5am on 19 April and took him into custody. Dawn raids on overstayers are still happening despite the Government’s official apology – almost two years ago – for the infamous Dawn Raids of the 1970s.

The latest incident has “got the Pacific community in Aotearoa up in arms”.

Tongan matāpule or leader, Pakilau Manase Lua, said this was a betrayal of all Pasifika in New Zealand.

Immigration NZ has disputed the timing of the raid, saying it was 6am and not 5am as claimed by the overstayer’s lawyer in media reports.

But Pakilau said the Government must explain Immigration NZ’s (INZ) actions.

“I am absolutely disgusted and appalled by it,” the Tongan community fahu told Stuff.

“What was the purpose of the dawn raid apology? They missed a huge opportunity then to announce pathways to residency or an amnesty with the apology.

“The fact that they didn’t and dawn raids continued, shows they were disingenuous and not at all sincere. It was all just theatre and a show after all,” Pakilau said.

Immigration Minister Michael Wood said he was concerned about INZ undertaking out of hours operations “that are reminiscent of practises employed during the Dawn Raids”.

In a letter to the agency’s chief executive Carolyn Tremain, Wood said INZ must account for the Dawn Raids apology and that “out of hours” deportations should only occur in extreme cases.

“I welcome the steps taken by Immigration New Zealand so far since I raised the issue … including escalating approval from a national to a general manager for out of hours operations,” he said.

However, he said the steps did not go far enough.

“It is my strong expectation that the entire Government, but especially Immigration New Zealand, has a responsibility to uphold the principles of the Dawn Raids apology, ensure any actions reflect our ongoing commitment to right the wrongs of the past, and avoid re-inflicting the trauma that many still live with today,” Wood said.

Pakilau said politicians, most recently Deputy Prime Minister Carmel Sepuloni, had been saying they were looking at the issue or querying relevant ministers or officials.

“However, they have had over three years since the petition was sent in 2020 to “look” and “query”.

“We are over it. They need to act and act quickly to stop this.

“The irony is that the Deputy PM is Tongan, and while she was away in Tonga last week the immigration department was dawn-raiding her own people in Aotearoa.”

Sepuloni said the raid was re-traumatising for the Pacific communities and the only acceptable reason for such raids would be a “threat to public safety.”

”We [government] want absolute assurance that the case in question met that threshold. [I’m] highly concerned and really disappointed.”

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said he was also concerned.

“Those aren’t the sorts of tactics that I would expect us to be using in New Zealand. I have received assurance that no ministers were aware that it was going to take place.

“And I understand that the minister, the associate minister of immigration is reviewing the case of the individual concerned… Those sorts of tactics aren’t the ones that I would expect New Zealand officials to be engaging,” Hipkins said. The detained Tongan man’s lawyer, Soane Foliaki, has been approached for comment.