In a scathing review, former New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been heavily criticised for her "hollow" apology regarding the Dawn Raids that targeted Pacific Island New Zealanders in the 1970s.
The review, conducted by Mike Heron KC, highlights the disappointment felt by the Pacific community, as no significant changes were made to prevent the continuation of dawn raid tactics.
Immigration Minister Andrew Little expressed remorse, acknowledging the government's failure to update guidelines and provide new enforcement strategies to Immigration New Zealand.
"It is something that I think with the benefit of hindsight we'd say should have happened."
Acting Prime Minister Carmel Sepuloni expressed her disappointment with Immigration New Zealand, emphasizing that their actions were triggering for the Pacific community and failed to consider the government's apology.
Sepuloni, who personally experienced the traumatic effects of the dawn raids, added:
"It was a traumatic experience, and Immigration New Zealand's actions are triggering for our Pacific people."
The review found that the apology issued by Ardern in 2021 appeared to lack sincerity and failed to meet the reasonable expectation of the Pacific community that early morning intrusions would cease.
Despite the extensive publicity surrounding the apology, ministers and officials made no effort to change the government's approach to deportation.
The review further recommended implementing new legislation to end the practice of dawn raids entirely or limit their use to specific circumstances.
It also emphasised the need to update Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and guidelines for officers, stressing that dawn raids should be considered a last resort and highlighting the importance of considering the presence of children or elderly individuals during such operations.
The Dawn Raids, infamous for targeting Pacific Island New Zealanders in the 1970s, left a lasting impact on the community. A historical analysis revealed that Pacific people were once the primary victims of these raids. However, the focus has shifted in recent years, with Chinese nationals comprising the majority of deportees due to a shift in visa focuses from horticulture to construction.
The review captured diverse perspectives from community representatives. While some believed the raids were racist, regardless of the targeted communities, others supported deportations to maintain a sense of citizenship identity and protect the reputation of lawful citizens. These conflicting views demonstrate the complexity of the issue and the significant social and psychological stress caused by dawn raids.
In response to the review, MBIE Chief Executive Carolyn Tremain acknowledged the impact of the 1970s Dawn Raids on the Pacific community and expressed the commitment to update guidance for compliance officers. Tremain stated:
"The new guidance will specify when and how out of hours visits to residential addresses should take place and make it clearer that they should only be carried out as a last resort when all other alternatives have been considered."
Despite the review's findings, the government's actions moving forward will determine whether a genuine change in approach can be achieved, providing justice and reassurance to the affected communities.