New Zealand apologizes for 1970s raids on Pacific residents
WELLINGTON, New Zealand – Aupito William Sio recalled the terrifying day of his childhood when police officers holding German Shepherd dogs showed up at his family home before dawn and pointed flashlights at their faces as his father stood there helpless.
Now Pacific Peoples Minister Sio and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Monday that the government will formally apologize for an infamous part of the nation’s history known as Dawn Raids.
It was around this time that the inhabitants of the Pacific Islands were targeted for deportation in the mid-1970s in aggressive home raids carried out by authorities to find, convict and deport those who were past their stay. Raids often took place very early in the morning or late at night.
Sio became emotional as he and Ardern discussed the apology at a press conference.
“As a community, we felt we were invited to come to New Zealand. We answered the call to fill the manpower needed, just as we answered the call for soldiers in 1914, ”said Sio.
But he said the government then turned on the Pasifika community when it felt these workers were no longer needed.
Ardern said that at the time, people who did not look like white New Zealanders had to carry ID to prove they had not stayed too long and were often randomly pulled over on the street , or even in schools or churches. She said people in the Pacific were often dragged to court in their pajamas and without adequate representation.
“Not only were they targeted, but they were targeted using a truly dehumanizing process and practice, which really terrorized the people back home,” Ardern said.
She said when computerized immigration records were introduced in 1977, they showed that 40% of those overstretched were either British or American, groups that were never targeted for deportation. .
“The raids, and what they represented, created deep wounds,” Ardern said. “And although we cannot change our history, we can recognize it and we can seek to right a wrong.”
In Sio’s case, he said his family were legal residents who owned the house, but a few of his father’s nephews, who were from Samoa, were staying with them and were taken away by the police without their clothes or personal effects. , then expelled.
He said the nephews worked in a factory and their visas had expired. He said they were getting ready to go home and wanted to do a few extra hours before they left. Sio said his father helped advocate for them to get their clothes and money back so they can leave New Zealand with some measure of their dignity intact.
The official apology will take place at a commemoration event on June 26 in Auckland. The apology doesn’t come with any financial compensation or legal changes, but Sio believes it is an important first step. He said the trauma is still fresh for many and it is good to tackle the problem and prevent such a situation from happening again in the future.
Ardern said this was only the third time the government has issued such an apology.
Previous apologies concerned the imposition of a head tax on Chinese immigrants in the 1880s and the introduction of the deadly influenza pandemic in Samoa in 1918, which killed more than a fifth of the population.