New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern apologized on behalf of the government at Auckland City Hall for the so-called Dawn Raids. These were police raids amongst people from Pacific islands in the mid-70s.
Ardern apologized after an Ifoga, a traditional Samoan ritual where someone asks for forgiveness. She sat on a chair while members of the Pacific community pulled a large white mat over her head that completely covered. A little later, the mat was removed and Ardern was hugged.
The name of the Dawn Raids refers to the time they took place, often early in the morning or late at night. People from Pacific islands were targeted by aggressive raids by authorities looking for visa overturns. Often they were convicted and deported.
Many people from the island states of Tonga, Fiji and Samoa, for example, had come to New Zealand with temporary visas to work in factories or on land. When the government decided that the immigrant workers were no longer needed, people from that community were hunted.
This also happened with random police checks on the streets, schools or churches. People who did not look like white New Zealanders had to carry an ID to prove that their residence permit had not expired.
Most of the so-called overstayers were British or American, but only Pacific people were deported.
No Broad Financial Compensation
Ardern said that even though the raids occurred almost 50 years ago, its consequences continue. “Its still in the memory of those who were directly involved. It lives on in the disruption of trust and faith in authorities. And it lives on in the unresolved grievances of Pacific communities that these events took place and that they have not been addressed to this day.”
As a gesture of goodwill, the Prime Minister announced that New Zealand will fund scholarships for Pacific communities. In addition, the government will help to compilate an official report of raids, based on written and oral statements.
Broader financial compensation has not been discussed, but the community sees Arderns apologies as an important step in the right direction. Todays ceremony was originally scheduled for June, but was postponed due to the measures against the coronavirus.