Minister of Foreign Affairs Nanaia Mahuta was told by Australia last week they intended to deport a 15-year-old boy to New Zealand, but that message was not passed on to the prime minister.
Putting yet more strain on the trans-Tasman relationship is the deportation of a minor – the reasons for which are still not public.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern found out yesterday after media inquiries, but Mahuta was told last Wednesday.
She informed Oranga Tamariki “as soon as I was notified because we were very mindful given other situations that have been brought to our attention such as that in Turkey that the care of the child was a very important consideration”.
The circumstances were complex, but the boy had family here and in Australia, Mahuta said.
“We have worked to ensure that Oranga Tamariki is looking for the most suitable solution and keeping the family involved in that process”, she told reporters.
“We’re talking about a minor here and it’s really important to ensure that the confidence and the complexities of the issues are addressed, we were alerted to the issues in relation to this minor and made sure Oranga Tamariki were engaged in the process right from the moment we were notified”.
As he was a minor, she would not comment on the specifics of his situation.
New Zealand had not been advised that Australia was breaching any international law, including the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, Mahuta said.
Australia’s Department of Home Affairs said it could not comment on individual cases but issued a statement with a range of circumstances under which someone could be deported, but would not say which one applied to the boy.
“A non-citizen’s visa must be cancelled if they are serving a full-time term of imprisonment for an offence committed in Australia and they have, at any time, been sentenced to a period of 12 months or more imprisonment, regardless of their age or nationality.”
Then another paragraph: “Non-citizens who do not hold a valid visa will be liable for detention and removal from Australia”.
The statement said the department approached visa cancellation of minors with a “high degree of caution and consultation” and “complies with its legal obligations in circumstances where the removal of a minor is considered, including those under the Convention on the Rights of the Child”.
‘A pretty tough call’ – Opposition leader
National leader Judith Collins was not impressed with the deportation of a minor.
“I just thought that was really pretty bad actually, I just think a 15-year-old no doubt has been involved in something they shouldn’t be involved in, but actually you have to be human,” Collins said.
In New Zealand “some leeway” was given to 15-year-olds unless it was “extremely serious”, he said.
“So I don’t know enough about just the seriousness of the offending but I’ve got to say, it’s a pretty tough call.”
It marked a new low in trans-Tasman relations, Collins told reporters.
“It was a pretty poor call for, say, Minister Peter Dutton to come out and start talking about sending out the trash to New Zealand in the same week that we were commemorating what happened with an Australian who came here and killed 50-odd people in New Zealand and injured so many more.”
She said Ardern needed to “refresh the relationship with Scott Morrison and that will help refresh the relationship between Australia and New Zealand at a government level”.