Why Is Australia Deporting So Many Maori and Pacific Islanders?

Photo by: Christoph Hardt/Geisler-Fotopres/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

For The New York Times, New Zealand-bsed journalist Sylvia Varnham O’Regan examines Australia’s new aggressive deportation policy. Since Australia modified its immigration law in December 2014, visas have been cancelled and deportations have increased dramatically. Many deportees are native New Zealanders who moved to Australia to work and have little to no connection to the New Zealand they’re sent “back” to. Some have lived in Australia most of their lives and are now separated from their children in there. Based vaguely on “character” or criminal activity, 60% of deportees are Maori or Pacific Islanders, suggesting a racist motivation. New Zealand wants to know what this is all about.

Those returned also include a former soldier with no criminal record and a quadriplegic man who  lived in Australia for 36 years, while in March a 17-year-old boy was placed in an adult detention center 12 hours away from his family — the youngest New Zealander yet to be detained.

Australian officials defend the approach. In an emailed statement, a government spokesman said the deportation measures had been introduced to “protect Australia and its citizens.”

But New Zealand officials say Australia is undermining the two countries’ historical bonds of “mateship,” with free movement across their borders dating to the 1920s.

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