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NZ PM apologises to Pacific communities for ‘Dawn Raids’

The “Dawn Raids” took place from 1974 to 1976 during which the New Zealand government clamped down on immigrant workers from the Pacific who overstayed their work visas.

IANS | Wellington |

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Sunday formally apologized to Pacific communities affected by the Dawn Raids in the 1970s. Between 1974 and 1976, a series of rigorous immigration policies were carried out that resulted in targeted raids on the homes of Pacific families, reports Xinhua news agency. The raids to find, convict and deport overstayers often took place very early in the morning or late at night.

“Today I offered, on behalf of the government, a formal and unreserved apology to Pacific communities for the discriminatory implementation of immigration laws that led to the Dawn Raids,” Ardern said at Auckland’s Town Hall. “Expressing our sorrow, regret and remorse for past actions is the right thing to do and provides an opportunity for closure and reconciliation,” she said. Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio said looking back it was clear that the immigration laws were discriminatory.

“Pacific peoples, Maori, and other ethnic communities were specifically targeted and racially profiled, which was wrong and should have never happened,” William Sio said.

“In 1986 the Race Relations Conciliator found that between 1985 and 1986, while Pacific peoples comprised roughly a third overstayers, they represented 86 per cent of all prosecutions for overstaying. Racially targeting Pacific communities created a decades-long false impression of the status of Pacific New Zealanders.

“During the same period overstayers from the US and Britain who also comprised roughly a third of overstayers made up only 5 per cent of prosecutions,” William Sio said.

As part of its formal apology, Ardern said her government will provide NZ$2.1 million ($1.5 million) in academic and vocational scholarships for Pacific communities and $1 million in leadership scholarships for young people from Samoa, Tonga, Fiji and Tuvalu, among others.

Sunday’s event included an Ifoga, a traditional Samoan ceremony in which people ask for forgiveness or receive forgiveness, where some ministers and members of parliament draped a mat over Ardern, which was then removed by members of the Pacific community.

“There were no reported raids on any homes of people who were not Pacific; no raids or random stops were exacted towards European people,” Ardern said during her apology.