Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has given a formal and unreserved apology on behalf of the government for the Dawn Raids.
Ardern delivered the apology in a special ceremony in front of more than 1000 people at the Auckland Town Hall.
Ardern said the raids to find, convict and deport overstayers often took place late at night or early in the morning and were said to involve harsh verbal and physical treatment.
“Today I offer, on behalf of the government, a formal and unreserved apology to Pacific communities for the discriminatory implementation of immigration laws that led to the Dawn Raids,” Ardern said.
The Dawn Raids occurred about 50 years in the 1970’s. They were carried out by police and immigration officials, often accompanied by dogs, in order to arrest individuals who had overstayed their work visas.
Pacific people made up about 86% of those people prosecuted.
Following an inquiry in 1986 it was found that only about 30% Pacific people were overstayers.
Ardern also announced that the government will provide $2.1 million in education scholarships and fellowships to Pacific communities in New Zealand.
She also announced $1m in Manaaki New Zealand Short Term Training Scholarships for young leaders from Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu and Fiji.
Her Royal Highness Princess Mele Siu’ilikutapu Kalaniuvalu Fotofili spoke on behalf of the Tongan community.
She said she vividly recalled the Dawn Raids and poor treatment applied to her community.
Princess Mele Siu’ilikutapu Kalaniuvalu Fotofili said she accepted the government’s gifts which she described as “very significant indeed” saying it signalled the government’s desire to mend the rift.