Researcher’s survey of migrants finds racist overtones but police say they take cultural concerns seriously.
New Zealand’s African minorities – many welcomed here as refugees – claim the police are targeting them unfairly and sometimes in a racist manner.
Young Africans have told AUT researcher Dr Camille Nakhid that police have stopped them on the streets or in cars for no apparent reason except their colour, beaten them, called them “n*****s”, told them to “go back to your country” and even told them to go back to Mt Roskill when they visited the North Shore.
One young man said: “If they see you as a black man with a white woman in the car … they pull the girls aside and ask, ‘Are you OK?'”
Dr Nakhid said this treatment cannot continue. She will present the report to an African youth forum at the Wesley Community Centre in Mt Roskill at 3pm tomorrow. Police say while they cannot respond to single incidents without more details, they take cultural concerns very seriously.
Only 13,464 people of African ethnicity were counted in the 2013 Census, just 0.3 per cent of New Zealanders. Sub-groups included 1617 Somalis, 1245 Ethiopians and 243 Eritreans, who all came here mainly as refugees from civil wars, many without husbands or fathers.
Dr Nakhid posted two questionnaires on Survey Monkey last April and advertised them to young Africans through Facebook and other media. The main survey drew 84 respondents, of whom 31 per cent had been stopped by police and 3.6 per cent had been arrested.
She also interviewed 31 young Auckland Africans, including 25 from Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea.
They told her their “skin colour and age made them a very obvious and visible target of racism for the police”, but it depended on their clothing.
A 28-year-old Somali commerce graduate told her: “If I’m wearing a hoodie I get pulled over, if I am wearing a hat I will be pulled over, and I don’t get a breathalyser if I am wearing my suit from work.”
A 31-year-old Kenyan graduate whose car broke down on the harbour bridge at 2am said the police officer responded: “Ooh, like, ‘So he came with the n*****s,’ and that kind of stuff.”
A 29-year-old Somali builder, Vegita, said a police officer stopped him when he was driving home at night and said: “What are you doing in the area, criminal?”
“I have a history with the police,” Vegita said. But he said that did not justify being called “criminal”.
Aisha-Eli Boyce, who is half African, backed his account and said she had been with Vegita when he had been pulled over by police.
The group plans to educate young Africans on their legal rights.
Police ‘value diversity’
Young Africans are not offending at a higher rate than the national average, police say.
A spokeswoman said only 12 out of 5000 (0.2 per cent) of the police database of youths aged 14 to 16 identified as African, less than their 0.3 per cent share of the national population aged 15 to 29.
She said police “take the concerns of all sectors of our community very seriously”, but could not comment on individual incidents without further details.
“Valuing diversity is now one of the core values of the NZ Police and we have a responsibility to encourage and grow the cultural competencies of our staff and actively recruit from all communities,” she said.
The police website lists 13 Maori, Pacific and ethnic liaison officers across the three Auckland police districts and eight in the rest of the country. Only one, in Christchurch, is listed as speaking an African language (Shona), but the spokeswoman said one African officer was also working in Auckland.
Former Race Relations Conciliator Gregory Fortuin said the police had responded positively since he first raised concerns about unfair treatment of minority groups in 2001. “But if there are individual cases, it should not be tolerated in 2016,” he said.
Afro-American/West Indian: 1746
Total African: 13,464
Auckland: 6303 (47%)
Wellington: 2208 (16%)
Waikato: 1560 (12%)
Canterbury: 1383 (10%)
Under 15: 4380 (33%)
15-29: 3492 (26%)
30-64: 5328 (40%)
65+: 261 (2%)
Median age (African): 24.3
Median age (NZ European): 40.8
Source: 2013 Census