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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 37, Number 5. 3rd April 1974

Worker action stalls police state tactics

Worker action stalls police state tactics

Last week Minister of Immigration Colman proclaimed that night raids on Pacific Islanders to check "illegal immigrants" would be stopped forthwith. They were "alien to the NZ character" and "damaging to New Zealand's reputation overseas". A few days later, Mr Kirk told the South Pacific Forum that there hadn't been any "dawn raids", which must have come as a surprise to Tongans who were grabbed out of their beds by police and immigration officials at one and two o'clock in the morning.

Then last Friday night at about 10.30pm police arrested two Samoans having a fight and took their addresses. At 2am Saturday morning, two carloads of police rolled up at the address of one of the men in Grey Lynn, surrounded the house and entered from all sides. Seven Samoans inside were rudely woken, lined up and asked to produce their passports. One was found to be an illegal immigrant and he was arrested.

In a statement under pressure three days later, police said that two Samoans had been arrested fighting late, so they went to Grey Lynn in the early hours to check the passport situation. While there, they said, another person was arrested.

The police's justification for the raid was that Colman "had only banned organised raids and this was not one."

Obviously then, Colman's statement is as meaningless as many suspected, and Government action has been merely to change the name of the evil instead of eliminating it. A skunk by any other name will smell as foul. If two carloads of police, forced entry, and a demand on all residents to produce their passports at 2am does not constitute an organised raid, then God help us when the police get organised.

As long as police continue to have the right to demand passports off Polynesians when and where they please, NZ's position on South Africa will continue to be no more than hypocrisy. How can the NZ government condemn the pass laws in South Africa while Polynesians here are subjected to the same iniquitous laws?

Our immigration policy is developing lines structually similar to South Africa's. The white population is being boosted by large-scale permanent migration from England, while the employer's labour needs are served by increasing the temporary unskilled Polynesian work force. New Zealand is exploiting the economic situation in the Pacific Islands to its own advantage—no English worker would dream of coming here on a temporary work permit of six months with his fare paid in advance or docked from his wages. But with the economic and social situation being what it is in Tonga, for example, even the obviously exploitative three month permit seems superficially attractive.

Despite all attempts by the Auckland Harbour Board to stop leaflets being distributed about the deportation of 15 Tongans on the "Ocean Monarch" last Sunday, the crew of the ship were informed of the situation and thwarted the deportation by threatening not to work the ship if the Tongans were carried.

Whenever picketers from Auckland groups were caught distributing leaflets in the passage terminal on the wharf, they were escorted off by security guards. But unknown to the Harbour Board, the supply of 7,000 leaflets was actually on the roof of the terminal and new supplies were constantly available to new picketers. Crew members took bundles of leaflets on board, a crane driver hoisted some across to Auckland wharfies who distributed them among the crew, and tourist bus drivers passed the leaflets back to their passengers.

A delegation went on board to speak to the crew's union delegate, and by 4.00pm, after eight hours of picketing and handing out about 4,000 leaflets, representatives of the crew came out to say that a large section of the crew had already decided to walk off the ship if the Tongans were taken on board, and a general meeting of the entire crew was planned before sailing.

The threat of the walk off was sufficient to scare the captain into ringing the police and immigration authorities, and after a hurried meeting in Auckland it was announced that the Tongans would not be put on board.

For fear of further worker's action against the deportation, the Tongans were flown out on Monday under conditions of strict secrecy and at short notice. They left New Zealand at 2.45pm on Monday from an airport swarming with police.

The example of British seamen will not be forgotten, and it is unlikely that any further deportation will succeed until the immigration law is purged of discrimination and super-exploitation. The international solidarity with the Tongan workers last Sunday was a victory which cannot be overshadowed by the deceitful and secretive actions of the police and the Immigration Department the next day.

Cartoon of Mt Eden Jail