Author: STEPHEN JOHNSON FOR DAILY MAIL AUSTRALIA
A 17-year-old New Zealand-born boy held in an immigration detention centre for minor crimes has sparked a diplomatic rift between Australia and its Kiwi neighbour.
The youth, who moved to Australia when he was nine, was last year convicted of summary offences in New South Wales before being transferred to Melbourne in March.
With the boy facing deportation, New Zealand’s Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters has angrily accused Australia of breaching its United Nations obligations as a 1990 signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
‘This person is regarded as a child or a minor, and I’m just reminding the Australians – you’re a signatory, live up to it,’ the leader of the right-wing New Zealand First party said on Tuesday.
‘They are clearly in breach of it. There’s no complication. They know that, we know that.’
Australian Border Force has so far declined to say how long the boy would continue to be held at the Melbourne Immigration Transit Centre at Broadmeadows, away from his extended family in NSW.
Barrister Greg Barns, whose Hobart-based law firm is representing the boy, claimed the government was wrongly applying deportation rules normally reserved for violent, career criminals.
‘There’s nothing in his prior history that would make him in any way, shape or form a threat to the good order of Australia particularly when he’s 17,’ he told Daily Mail Australia today.
Mr Barns, who has received the boy’s criminal history from the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, said the youth was not serving a long sentence but declined to go into details.
‘Some kids go through troubled times when they’re juveniles and it’s reflected in their criminal history and there’s nothing in this man’s antecedents that suggests anything out of the ordinary,’ he said.
Freelance journalist Rebekah Holt, who has spoken to the boy by phone as a volunteer with immigration detainees, said he had been raised by his aunties, uncles and grandparents since he was four and was struggling with immigration detention.
‘He’s not good. He’s very anxious. He knows nobody in Melbourne other than me,’ she said.
He’s upset and he’s home sick and he doesn’t want to be there, I wouldn’t say he’s gone mad or anything but I’ve got concerns for his mental health.
‘A lot of people think that he’s a bad little bugger and he’s just getting what he deserves but it’s not that at all.’
She added the boy didn’t have relatives in New Zealand he would want to live with and had not had any family visit him in detention during the past six months.
Mr Dutton has presided over the deportation of New Zealand bikies under 2014 changes to the Migration Act that enable non-citizens to be kicked out of Australia on character grounds.
The boy faces an Administrative Appeals Tribunal hearing on Monday to determine if will stay in Australia.