New Zealand’s deportation policies are contributing to rising crime and drug abuse problems in the Pacific region, according to a recently released report.
The report shows that from 2013 to 2018, New Zealand deported 1,040 people to Pacific countries, and 400 were criminals.
Report author Jose Sousa-Santos says the Pacific is also becoming a ‘victim’ of the greed of organized crime groups in New Zealand and Australia, including biker gangs, and the appetite of nations tasmanes for illegal drugs.
He points to the New Zealand-based Head Hunters gang as being active in the Cook Islands.
Sousa-Santos is a specialist in international crime and terrorism at the Australian Pacific Security College at the Australian National University.
In his analysis published by an independent Australian think tank, the Lowy Institute, he said that the deportation policies of New Zealand, Australia and the United States “exacerbate crime and drug abuse in the countries of the Pacific”.
The report says criminal deportees are a “significant contributor” to the growth of transnational crime in the region, already at the center of drug trafficking from Asia, Mexico and South America to lucrative markets around the world. ‘Australasia.
This trade, he says, now spills over into drug activity on the islands themselves. In Fiji, for example, there were 148 drug-related arrests in 2009, but that number rose to almost 1,400 in 2019.
The report relies on figures from New Zealand’s Department for Business, Innovation and Employment, which details the number of “criminal deportations” between 2013 and 2018.
Significant numbers of people were deported for criminal offenses to Samoa (145 over five years), Tonga (120) and Fiji (113). Fewer than 10 each have been sent to Kiribati, Nauru, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
Official deportation figures after 2018 did not show the number of deportations for criminal offences.
The Sousa-Santos report quotes an unnamed deportee to Tonga as saying, “I’ve never been here before [as an adult]. I don’t speak the language. I grew up Kiwi. I don’t know how to live here. I just want to go home.”
The fate of the Tongan deportee invites parallels to Australia’s policy of deporting New Zealand citizens who have broken the law, even if they have lived in Australia since childhood. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern criticized this policy.
Another academic who has written about deportations in the Pacific, lecturer in politics and international relations, Dr Timothy Fadgen of the University of Auckland, says that if New Zealand engages in “judgmental rhetoric” about Australian policy, it “engaged in a substantially similar practice with respect to its own deportees”, many of them to Pacific countries.
Fadgen agreed with Sousa-Santos’ conclusion that the deportation policies of New Zealand, Australia and the United States acted as a “counterforce” to undermine the development policies that the countries were growing in the same region.
“They’re contradictory in some ways,” Fadgen said. “There’s not a lot of coordination and collaboration.”
Fadgen said New Zealand’s Returning Offenders (Management and Information) Act, which is used to manage and monitor deportees from Australia, has been replicated by Samoa to deal with deportees who end up there- low.
The Sousa-Santos study indicates that most deportees arriving in Pacific countries from New Zealand, Australia and the United States have criminal records.
Most are men, between the ages of 25 and 35, having spent on average more than 12 years away from their country of citizenship. A number of them bring their links to host country gangs.
The report also indicates that organized crime networks in Australia and New Zealand, including motorcycle gangs, have extended their activities from their home countries to the Pacific.
The Prime Minister’s Office was approached to explain how the criminal deportation of the Pasifikas from New Zealand differed from deportations from Australia to New Zealand.
He referred inquiries to the office of Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi, who said New Zealand had “given careful consideration” to deportations, taking into account a range of factors which include individual circumstances and family.
But he retained the right to deport those who breached their visas and other legal obligations allowing them to live and work in New Zealand.
Faafoi’s office said New Zealand law enforcement and regulatory agencies were working internationally and domestically to reduce the impact of transnational organized crime, including the sale and supply of illegal drugs across The pacific.