‘We’re still being dawn raided’, Tongan leader tells emotional public meeting

A public meeting that included government minister Michael Wood
A public meeting that included Immigration Minister Michael Wood (left) and community leaders was called following an incident last week that was reminiscent of the Dawn Raids of the 1970s. Image: Lydia Lewis/RNZ Pacific

RNZ Pacific

A meeting has been held in Auckland between the New Zealand government and those who lived through dawn raids past and present.

The meeting attended by the Immigration Minister, six Pacific MPs and community leaders was sparked by revelations of a case last week where a Pasifika overstayer was detained after a dawn raid.

His lawyer said police showed up at his home just after 5am, scaring his children and taking him into custody.

Less than two years ago, then prime minister Jacinda Ardern officially apologised on behalf of the government for the infamous early morning Dawn Raids of the 1970s which she said left Pacific communities feeling “targeted and terrorised”.

Tongan community leader Pakilau Manase Lua opened Saturday’s meeting in an impassioned plea for the government to listen.

He told a packed room, “we are crying for our dawn raiders, we are still being dawn raided” — and asked how that was still happening after the apology

An overstayer who cannot be named for privacy reasons sharing his story at a public meeting in Ōtara on 6 May 2023
An overstayer sharing his story at the meeting . . . “If you grant us a piece of paper then we will work hard for New Zealand.” Image: Lydia Lewis/RNZ Pacific

An overstayer at the meeting, who cannot be named to protect his identity, shared his story directly with the Immigration Minister.

Speaker’s tears flowed
Tears poured as he spoke, saying “I ask the minister for some grace to help us”.

“If you grant us a piece of paper then we will work hard for New Zealand and we will never forget that,” he said.

Former Pacific minister Aupito William Sio, who led the Dawn Raids apology, called on Pasifika leaders not to disrespect and disregard the historic apology for them.

But Pakilau Manase Lua said that was not good enough.

“The apology was for me, my father who’s passed away, all of the overstayers that were passed away for the Dawn Raids. How dare you come and tell me off on my marae.”

Immigration Minister Michael Wood told the packed room he was shocked to find out what had happened recently and committed to change.

Woods said the government was considering an amnesty for overstayers, but he could not say when a decision would be made.

‘Significant issue for us’
“This is a very significant issue for us to consider, the last time there was an amnesty in New Zealand was over 20 years ago, we have the advice in front of us now.

“I don’t want to give a date and set up a false expectation and raise hopes, I’ve given a very clear undertaking to people here today it will be soon.”

Amnesties were a complex issue and official advice needed to be carefully considered, he said.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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