New Zealand’s prime minister lashed out at her Australian counterpart Friday, accusing him of “testing” the friendship between the two nations and accusing his country of deporting “your people and your problems.”
Jacinda Ardern took Scott Morrison to task during an extraordinarily testy joint news conference over his country’s rigid policy of deporting foreign criminals to homelands they left as children.
She called the policy unfair and corrosive, and warned that she did not wish to see the allies engage in a tit-for-tat “race to the bottom.”
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“Australia is well within its rights to deport individuals who break your laws. New Zealand does the same. But we have a simple request: Send back Kiwis – genuine Kiwis,” Ardern said, according to the Guardian. “Do not deport your people and your problems.”
She said her nation takes into account a person’s ties to the nation and does not deport those “considered for all intents and purposes to have established themselves as New Zealanders.”
Australia needed to do the same, she argued.
New Zealand and Britain receive many felons under the policy, but long-time Australian residents are sent to countries where they don’t speak the language, and have no family or community ties.
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Ardern said many of the 2,600 New Zealand citizens Australia deported in recent years had no “home” in New Zealand because they left years ago. New Zealand courts were dealing with these long-term Australian residents who were failing to rehabilitate because they lacked the necessary family and social networks, she said.
“We will own our people. We ask that Australia stops exporting theirs,” she added.
Morrison publicly held firm, saying Australia has no plans to abandon the policy.
“The Australian government’s policy is very clear,” he said. “We deport non-citizens who have committed crimes in Australia against our community.
“This policy is applied not specific to one country, but to any country whose citizens are here. You commit a crime here, if convicted, once you have done your time, we send you home,” Morrison added. “And we have no objection to any country – anywhere – who would apply the same rule in terms of Australian citizens who commit crimes in other places.”
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The issue has been a point of tension between the two nations for several years, however, it has heated up recently as Ardern has made it an election issue.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.