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Kiwi dies at Australian detention centre

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 5/04/2016

A New Zealander has died in a Sydney detention centre and a fellow detainee is blaming the apparent heart attack on stress.

Rob Peihopa, 42, had got into a disagreement or argument with others and then collapsed and couldn't be saved by officers or medics, fellow detainee Vaelua Lagaaia told NZ Newswire.

"With the stress of this place the brother has had a heart attack," he said.

Peihopa had been in Villawood for about 10 months and was fighting Australian authorities' efforts to have him deported, Lagaaia said.

Peihopa had previously been given a two-year prison sentence for his part in a police chase.

Last year, Peihopa told Maori Television he had moved across the ditch in 1989 and has a partner and three sons.

The Australian immigration department confirmed staff were alerted to an unconscious man at about 9.45pm (AEST) on Monday and attempted to resuscitate him but he was unable to be revived.

"The man is suspected to have suffered a heart attack," a spokesman said in a statement.

He said the detention centre remains calm and support services were available to detainees.

The department expressed its sympathy to the family of the deceased man, the spokesman said.

Peihopa's death has been referred to the coroner and the New Zealand High Commission in Canberra has been advised.

Australia has been criticised for tough new immigration laws which allow them to deport any non-citizen who has served a sentence of 12 months or more, or failed a character test.

The rules have caught out many New Zealanders who have lived in Australia for years and no longer have roots in New Zealand.

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