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Jacinda Ardern is covered by a mat of forgiveness during a service in 2021 to make a formal apology to the Pacifika people affected by the Dawn Raids (Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)
Jacinda Ardern is covered by a mat of forgiveness during a service in 2021 to make a formal apology to the Pacifika people affected by the Dawn Raids (Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

The BulletinJuly 11, 2023

Dawn Raids apology ‘hollow’ as report finds ‘unusual’ lack of follow-up

Jacinda Ardern is covered by a mat of forgiveness during a service in 2021 to make a formal apology to the Pacifika people affected by the Dawn Raids (Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)
Jacinda Ardern is covered by a mat of forgiveness during a service in 2021 to make a formal apology to the Pacifika people affected by the Dawn Raids (Photo by Fiona Goodall/Getty Images)

The Pasifika community was justified in expecting change after the historic apology and is now awaiting a decision on an overstayers amnesty, writes Anna Rawhiti-Connell in this excerpt from The Bulletin, The Spinoff’s morning news round-up. To receive The Bulletin in full each weekday, sign up here.

‘Unusual’ lack of thought given to ongoing ‘out of hours’ activity

They say “assumption is the mother of all mistakes”. In the case of the Dawn Raids apology, a new report has found it is entirely reasonable for the Pasifika community to have assumed that the apology it received from the government for the dawn raids of the past would have a bearing on future action by Immigration NZ. The mistake, it seems, does not lie in the community having what Mike Heron KC describes as ‘reasonable expectation’ but in the ‘unusual’ lack of thought given to ongoing ‘out of hours’ activity by the relevant minister or senior officials before or after the apology. The review was commissioned by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) after it was revealed dawn raids continued after then prime minister Jacinda Ardern’s apology in 2021.

Immigration NZ officers feel let down

The Herald’s Thomas Coughlan has a good rundown on the report’s findings. The report also found that Immigration NZ officers feel hurt and let down by their managers for two reasons. They don’t believe the more recent activity had the hallmarks of a “Dawn Raid” and that facts weren’t properly communicated to the media and the community by management. Secondly, there was no direction that this kind of activity (in rare circumstances) should not occur.

‘Almost impossible’ to make any legislative changes before the election

In responding to recent events, Pakilau Manase Lua, a child of the Dawn Raids and Tongan community leader said “the first word that comes to mind is tokenistic. If you are really sorry about something and you end up using another culture’s beautiful practices to express your sorrow, you better damn well make sure it is sincere.” Immigration minister Andrew Little has subsequently apologised again, saying he is “sorry” the government did not change its approach to enforcement in light of the apology. The report recommends that the government consider amendments to the Immigration Act to specify the criteria for out of hours activity if they were to continue. As Newsroom’s Jo Moir reports, Little told media yesterday that it would be “almost impossible” to make any legislative changes before the election but he would consider the report and take recommendations to Cabinet shortly. Moir also tracks back through previous comments from former immigration minister Michael Wood and deputy prime minister Carmel Sepuloni which reveal a level of surprise about the continuation of this kind of activity, but also raise a very real question about why no thought was given to providing instructions to Immigration NZ  from the top down.

Action on overstayer amnesty still AWOL

As Mad Chapman wrote in May, “words of affirmation are nice and all but mean nothing unless accompanied by actions.” Many had hoped the apology in 2021 would be accompanied by commensurate action in granting amnesty to those known as overstayers. As the Herald’s Michael Neilson reported in May, there are an estimated 14,000 people living in New Zealand as overstayers. “Many arrived here legally under the impression it would be a pathway to residence – only to have shifting immigration policy sweep that dream from under their feet,” he writes. Last week it was reported that Stephen Paea, a Tongan basketball player, may be forced to miss this year’s Pacific Games after being classified as an overstayer despite living in New Zealand since he was two. The last word on an overstayers amnesty came from Michael Wood in June, 19 days before he resigned as immigration minister. Wood told the Indian Weekender that the government is trying to take a decision on a proposed amnesty scheme for overstayers “as soon as possible”.

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