The government expresses ‘sadness, remorse and regret’ over historic immigration repression targeting the Pacific communities.
Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, formally apologized for the police burglary in the 1970s that targeted the country’s Pacific communities.
Ardern told a tearful crowd that gathered at Auckland City Hall on Sunday that her government was offering a formal and unconditional apology for the infamous “Dawn Raids”, during which police – often accompanied by dogs – raided homes to find remnants who were then convicted and deported.
At the time of the attacks, many people from the Pacific Islands – including Samoa, Tonga and Fiji – came to New Zealand with temporary visas to help meet the need for workers in the country’s factories and fields.
But the government seems to be turning the community on during a downturn in the 1970s, amid allegations that they are taking work from New Zealanders. People who do not look like white New Zealanders have been told that they must bring identification to prove that they do not stay too long, and that they are frequently stopped in the street or even at schools or churches.
“Today, on behalf of the New Zealand Government, I make a formal and unconditional apology to the Pacific Communities for the discriminatory implementation of the immigration laws of the 1970s,” Ardern said during the rally in Auckland, the country’s largest city. , said.
“The government expresses its sadness, remorse and regret that the Dawn Raids and incidental police investigations took place and that these actions were ever deemed appropriate,” she said.
The Pacific people were a third of those staying longer, but represented 86 per cent of the persecutions, while Britons and Americans in New Zealand – who were also a third of the remaining – only 5 per cent of the persecutions in the same experienced period.
While the raids took place nearly 50 years ago, Ardern said their legacy continues.
‘It remains etched alive in the memory of those directly affected. It lives on in the disruption of trust and faith in the authorities. “And it lives on in the unresolved grievances of the Pacific communities that these events took place and that they have remained untouched to this day,” she said.
Al Jazeera’s Wayne Hay, who reported from Auckland, described Sunday’s ceremony as emotional, saying many in the audience burst into tears after Ardern’s apology.
The ceremony also includes an ifoga, a traditional Samoan ritual, in which people ask for or receive forgiveness, he said. During the ifoga, Ardern sits motionless as members of the Pacific community pull a large white rug over her head, covering her completely, before removing and embracing it.
“It’s a pretty rare thing in New Zealand,” Hay said. ‘A formal apology from the government for past injustices, and such an apology has strict criteria attached to it.
“Those who make the apology should be defined as a separate group that still suffers from historical events today and the government of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern decided that the victims of the Dawn Raids in the 1970s met the criteria. . ”
As a gesture of goodwill, Ardern said Sunday that the government will fund new education and training bursaries for the Pacific communities and compile an official report of the raids from written records and oral history.
“As part of this, the community will have the opportunity to come forward and share their experiences,” she said.
Sunday’s ceremony was originally scheduled for June but was delayed due to coronavirus measures. The apology did not bring any greater financial compensation or legal changes, but many people in the Pacific said it was an important first step.
The Tongan princess Mele Siu’ilikutapu Kalaniuvalu Fotofili said during the ceremony that the impact of the Dawn Raids has haunted her community for generations.
“We are grateful to your government for making the right decision to apologize,” she told Ardern. “To redress the extreme, inhuman, racist and unfair treatment, specifically against my community, in the Dawn Raids era.”
The princess added that the government could respond better to the current immigration needs, a remark that has elicited persistent applause. She said petitions had been filed to find roads and accommodation for stayers and visa holders.