Thousands of Kiwis living in Australia could be deported under new immigration laws, an Australian lawyer says.
Greg Barns, president of the Australian Lawyers Alliance, says about 1500 New Zealanders are now in jail and about 5000 have been imprisoned over the last 10 years.
Since December, anyone who isn’t an Australian citizen and who has served a sentence of 12 months or more can be deported.
“Certainly, you’re looking at the low thousands in terms of the number of people born in New Zealand, who are not citizens, and under this law could be deported back to New Zealand,” he told Radio New Zealand on Tuesday.
“Many of those people have moved on with their lives and become good members of the community, with strong ties to Australia and none to New Zealand.”
Nearly 200 New Zealanders are being held in detention centres facing deportation, and hundreds more have had their visas cancelled.
It’s been reported that nearly 100 have already been sent back to New Zealand.
And an Australian senator says Kiwis can’t expect special treatment.
“We don’t want people who get into trouble, who have a criminal record, and those who fit into that category will have their visas cancelled and sent back to where they came from,” Senator Ian Macdonald said.
“We love our cousins across the ditch but they must be subject to the same laws as everyone else.”
There’s increasing concern in New Zealand about the way the law is being applied to Kiwis.
Prime Minister John Key intends raising the issue with Australia’s Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, but when that will happen is uncertain.
He’s in New York for the UN General Assembly meeting, but Mr Turnbull isn’t there.
Foreign Minister Murray McCully intends talking to Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop about it, and they are both in New York.
Labour leader Andrew Little says the government should take a stronger line.
“They should have called in the Australian high commissioner and said it was unacceptable,” he said.