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Dawn raids reminiscent of Nazi, apartheid eras, victim says

A victim of the dawn raids has likened the treatment Pacific people in New Zealand faced in the 1970s as similar to what happened with the ghettoisation of "Jewish people in the Nazi era".

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Polynesian Panthers Tigilau Ness, professor Melani Anae, Reverend Alec Toleafoa and Pauline Smith say they can begin to heal after the Government apologises. Source: Breakfast

However, Polynesian Panthers Tigilau Ness, professor Melani Anae, Reverend Alec Toleafoa and Pauline Smith this morning told Breakfast they can begin to heal after the Government apologises.

It has taken decades, but on June 26 the Government said it would apologise for the dawn raids - the racial targetting of Pacific people as "overstayers".

The treatment is described as racial targetting because the majority of individuals who remained in New Zealand after the expiry of their visas at that time were from Europe or North America.

Photo of Dawn Raid in 1979 Source: 1 NEWS

However, they weren't visited by police officers, with Alsatian dogs, in the middle of the night, told to carry passports to prove they were allowed to be here or vilified, humiliated and treated as guilty until proven innocent - Polynesian people were.

Yesterday, almost 50 years later, the Government announced it would say sorry.

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The politically-driven crackdown on overstayers from the Pacific Islands involved special police squads raiding homes and workplaces, often in the early morning. Source: 1 NEWS

The apology comes after years of calls from the a brave group of Pasifika teenagers, called the Polynesian Panthers, got together at the time to fight the injustices they were experiencing.

So what was it like growing up at as a Pacific person at that time?

"I think [it was] horrific for the children and for the parents to be attacked like that at that time of the morning, that time of the night with no warning," Ness said.

He said the targeting and separation of Pacific people was reminiscent of other shameful periods in history.

"I would liken it to what happened to the Jewish people in the Nazi era, yeah, it's like that. So here in New Zealand, and we're living like that, it reminds me also of what it would be like in South Africa during the apartheid era because we've seen a lot of the coverage from what happened there."

Anae added that the targetting of brown people as suspects, which included Māori because police couldn't tell the difference between them and Pacific people, every time they stepped outside was as "insidious" as the raids themselves though.

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National’s leader told Breakfast the policy was “absolutely racist” and targeted at Pasifika people. Source: Breakfast

"The whole of the dawn raids really stripped us of our dignity and it stripped us of our humanity," Toleafoa said.

"Being referred to as bovines was the ultimate in removing our humanity and then we become the enemy, we become these demons that need to be gotten rid of, we're problems to be solved.

"I think when you are regarded in those ways that you are at the least on the scale of humanity."

However, Smith, who wasn't one of the Polynesian Panthers around at the time, said there are generations of people who don't even know about this part of New Zealand's history.

Now, the Polynesian Panthers want to get the dawn raids taught in schools as a compulsory subject.

"Just understanding and learning about it has been quite an enlightening, eye-opening moment and we want more of that for New Zealand," she said.