Dawn raids apology seeks to 'right a wrong', says Jacinda Ardern

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says an apology for the dawn raids seeks to right a wrong. 

Photo of Dawn Raid in 1979 Source: 1 NEWS

Ardern and the Government will formally apologise for the 1970s dawn raids that targeted the Pacific community on June 26 in the Auckland Town Hall. 

Pacific People's Minister Aupito William Sio said the apology for the "racist and discriminatory" dawn raids will highlight the trauma and harm caused to the Pacific community,

He did not think there was a Pacific family in New Zealand who were not impacted by the raids, adding it was a "moral imperative" to acknowledge those past actions were wrong through an apology, and would highlight the historical racism. 

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The PM acknowledged how traumatic Dawn Raids were for Pasifika people. Source: 1 NEWS

Ardern said the raids and additional random checks were dehumanising and exploited to racially profile people. 

During the period raids, 40 per cent of overstayers were British and from the US. They were never targeted. 

"Communities at the time felt targeted and terrorised and there is clear evidence the raids were discriminatory and have had a lasting negative impact," Ardern said. 

"An apology can never reverse what happened or undo the damage caused but we can acknowledge it and we can seek to right a wrong."

Aupito William Sio called the raids "absolutely intolerable" in today's human rights standards, adding the legacy of the dawn raids were etched in the memories of Pacific people. 

"Many continue to struggle. An apology is a step in the right direction."

Compensation has not been discussed, Ardern said. 

National leader Judith Collins supported the apology. 

"This historic act of discrimination against our Pasifika communities caused anguish that reverberated across decades, and it is right that we acknowledge this.

"The Pasifika community is a significant part of the multicultural society that makes this country special and we hope this apology will go some way towards helping these communities heal.

"National values the relationships we have forged with our Pasifika communities in both Government and Opposition, and will always work to strengthen these."

Green Party spokesperson for Pacific Peoples Teanau Tuiono said the apology was long overdue. 

"The Dawn Raids are a shameful stain on New Zealand history, defined by racial tension and unrest as police and immigration authorities victimised Pacific Islanders they suspected of abusing the terms of their visas. It was a racist attack on Pacific families and communities that was fuelled and enabled by the New Zealand Government."

Tuiono said the apology needed to be backed up with "fixing our broken immigration system, including creating a broad amnesty programme for people who overstay and real pathways to residency". 

Immigration officials targeted the homes of people from the Pacific Islands in the early hours of the morning, beginning in the 1970s in a crackdown on alleged "overstaying".

The policy followed a boom in jobs after World War II, where many people from the Pacific Islands were encouraged to come to New Zealand to fill roles in growing industries.

There have been calls for an apology for the raids recently, with petitions, an open letter and the Human Rights Commission joining the push for an apology.  

Social justice group the Polynesian Panthers protested the raids at the time and this year were still calling for an apology. 

Reverend Alec Toleafoa, who joined the Panthers as a 16-year-old, told 1 NEWS earlier this year that "part of the apology is putting to right the injustice that was done, what we'd like to see is recognition of that injustice. We would also like to provide something that is sustainable for our people, following an educative process..."

NZ Herald reported the open letter by Benji Timu said the raids had caused generational trauma. 

"The past is implied as forgiven and forgotten; however, the effects of the past still linger in the fabric of our identity 50 years on," it stated.