‘Racist’ raids: New Zealand to say sorry to Pacific Islanders

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The father of Pacific Peoples Minister Aupito William Sio was among people of Pacific origin who were singled out in immigration raids in the 1970s

It has been 50 years since New Zealand’s “dawn raids” and therefore the 82-year-old father of Pacific Peoples Minister Aupito William Sio still cannot mention it.

“How does one mention something where you were made to feel helpless in your house by an authority that was alleged to take care of you and an authority you came to serve?” Sio said.

One winter morning in 1974, the police – amid dogs – came to the front entrance of Sio’s father’s property in Otara, Auckland. They demanded everyone within the house retrieve their passport to point out they were legally entitled to be in New Zealand. Dogs were barking, people were screaming and therefore the police chased Sio’s cousins from the garage. They were taken to jail minus their belongings and deported to Samoa.

Many Pacific Islanders moved to New Zealand after the war to spice up the country’s depleted labour force. By 1976, they made up just over 2 percent of the country’s population, numbering 65,700 consistent with the national census. But they came struggling amid the economic strife that roiled the country within the 1970s when the Labour Government decided to clamp down on immigration. Between 1974 and 1976, there have been numerous raids on the homes of Pacific families, often within the early morning or late in the dark . Thousands were arrested and deported.

After years of community-led lobbying – including a petition signed by 7,366 folks that was presented in parliament in June – Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the govt would formally apologise for a policy that she acknowledged has caused “deep wounds” among New Zealand’s Pacific communities.

The apology is scheduled for Lammas , 2021.

Sio says it’s important New Zealand acknowledges selected racism as a part of its history.

‘Racist’ raids: New Zealand to mention sorry to Pacific Islanders

“It’s the primary move in removing the shackles of shame,” he said. “If we don’t learn and understand what happened and are available up with excuses an equivalent pattern of behaviour will manifest again. we’d like to simply accept that what happened was wrong and it’s still wrong.”

A 1986 investigation by the Race Relations Conciliator into allegations of discrimination within the application of immigration laws found that between 1985-1986, while Pacific peoples made up a 3rd of individuals who had remained after their visas had expired, they accounted for 86 percent of all prosecutions. as compared , those from the us and Great Britain, who also made up a 3rd of all of these who had overstayed, accounted for less than 5 percent of all prosecutions. consistent with the Ministry for Pacific Peoples, there have been an estimated 5,000-12,000 who had done so between 1974 and 1976.

Why now?
Benji Timu and Josiah Tualamali’i began the petition that was tabled in parliament in June after feeling frustrated that no official had recognised the inter-generational trauma resulting from the raids, a subject which wasn’t mentioned in class , Timu told Al Jazeera.

Timu, 27, has spent the last five years learning about his identity.

Of Samoan, Cook Island, and Niuean descent, he says he’s only now learning about his culture’s struggles.

“A lot of individuals mention the shame and guilt they’ve had to hold so as to remain in New Zealand. I see myself as a part of the privileged diaspora of the Pacific. I can speak my language and English and that i feel there’s a responsibility to face up for my culture,” he said.

“It’s crazy to think we didn’t study this in schools. I’ve received no anti-racism education. The damage could also be done and you’ll see the hurt has passed down two generations. It’s manifested in distrust within the police and therefore the government. And there are an entire lot of things keeping our people at rock bottom – whether that’s socioeconomically, educationally, or from a justice standpoint. An apology is that the first start of the method for creating things right.”

Pacific Islanders structure 8.1 percent of latest Zealand’s five million people. National statistics dating back to 2013 suggest their median annual income was 8,800 New Zealand dollars ($6,145) less than the median value and over the three years from 2012 to 2014, about 28 percent of Pacific children lived in poor households, compared with 16 percent of youngsters of European origin.

Cindy Kiro, (left), and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, (right), walk together through Parliament Building on Monday, May 24, 2021, in Wellington, New Zealand. Kiro was named as New Zealand’s next governor-general, the first Indigenous Maori woman appointed to the role

The petition also involved the implementation of a legacy fund to honour, acknowledge and financially support those families suffering from the raids.

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