CANBERRA -- Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has agreed to escalate the concerns of New Zealand Prime Minister John Key about a number of citizens facing deportation in Australian immigration detention.
The pair met this week in New York during the current session of the United Nations General Assembly, with Key revealing he’d been “pretty blunt” with Bishop.
Key is concerned about the fate of around 200 New Zealanders who have been detained or deported under tough new Australian immigration laws, which came into effect last December.
Some of them, according to Key, had spent almost their entire lives in Australia, and one of those, 23-year-old Junior Togatuki, allegedly took his own life after his visa was revoked.
Under the laws, a foreign criminal who has served an Australian prison sentence of 12 months or more can be sent back to the country of birth.
Bishop told reporters in New York she is now open to considering other deportation arrangements.
”There is no closer relationship than Australia and New Zealand, and so I think it's appropriate that we consider this matter as Prime Minister Key has asked us to do,” she said.
“I think it would be timely for Prime Minister Turnbull to discuss this with Prime Minister Key.”
The two leaders are due to meet soon.
Togatuki died a fortnight ago in solitary confinement in the high-security Goulburn Supermax prison while awaiting deportation.
He’d left New Zealand aged four and had begged the Immigration Minister Peter Dutton to stay despite serving a seven-year sentence for robbery and assault.
The Togatuki case had been specifically raised with Bishop and she assured Key and her New Zealand counterpart Murray McCully that a full inquiry is underway.
The NSW Police are investigating the death and the two nation's Immigration Ministers will meet to discuss the case.