Elderly Pasifika man sobs as memories of Dawn Raids surface over apology

NZ Dawn Raids of the 1970s 160621
The infamous Dawn Raids of the 1970s ... the New Zealand government will formally apologise for these shameful events on June 26. Image: APR screenshot TVNZ

By Barbara Dreaver, TVNZ News Pacific correspondent

As the New Zealand government confirmed it would apologise for the 1970s Dawn Raids against Pacific Islanders, memories have surfaced for those traumatised by them, including one elderly man.

The politically-driven crackdown on overstayers from the Pacific Islands involved special police squads raiding homes and workplaces, often in the early morning.

Savelio Ikani Pailate, 93, remembered being chased by dogs in the middle of the night.

He said they had to run to away to Manurewa, to places “where there were no houses”, with some being injured because they fled in bare feet.

Pailate’s case was before the court at the end he was allowed to work, but the police ignored it and deported him anyway.

He dreamt of buying his family a home and getting his children educated

He achieved that after returning to New Zealand and working until age 82, refusing to listen to the many voices against him.

The crackdown on Pacific overstayers. Video: TVNZ News

Racially profiled
Racially profiled and picked up randomly by police, workplaces were raided and homes stormed.

“They’d call it the Dawn Raids but they actually raided just after midnight cause our families would be up and gone before dawn because that’s what they did, they worked at the crack of dawn,” Pakilau Manase Lua of the Pacific Leadership Forum said.

Pacific People’s Minister ‘Aupito William Sio wiped away tears as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed she would apologise for the Dawn Raids next week.

‘Aupito described what the apology would mean, and the significance of restoring mana for the victims of the raids.

The Pacific People’s Minister, whose family moved to New Zealand in 1969 from Samoa, spoke of being raided, having “memories about my father being helpless”.

“We bought the home about two years prior. To have someone knocking at the door at the early hours with a flashlight in your face, disrespecting the owner of the home, with an Alsatian dog frothing at the mouth wanting to come in without any respect for the people living there.”

‘Aupito described it as “quite traumatising”.

“The apology is about helping people heal. People who have been traumatised.”

Ardern and the government will formally apologise for the 1970s Dawn Raids that targeted the Pacific community on June 26 in the Auckland Town Hall.

This article is republished with permission.

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