A young Fiji national who failed to win status as a refugee has won the right to stay in New Zealand permanently, partly because she is Muslim.
The 30-year-old Fiji Indian, whose name has not been released, failed to win her case before the Refugee Status Branch but succeeded at the Immigration and Protection Tribunal (IPT).
She has lived in New Zealand since 2009 but does not want to return to Fiji fearing sexual violence which she has experienced in the past there.
She felt that her relatives in Fiji would force her to marry to protect her from further violence and to avoid the stigma of living alone, which her religion opposed.
The Refugee Branch said she had been the victim of sexual harassment and assault at the hands of a Fijian man in 2008.
It found there “was no real chance that she would suffer any sexual violence if returned to Fiji, and considered that the state would be able to protect her from serious harm.”
It also found that there was no evidence she would be forced to marry.
By law, Refugee Status decisions have to be reviewed by IPT and in its decision, it said the woman had been on visitor, student and job visas since 2009.
It said that all her family now live in New Zealand where she also receives psychiatric care as a result of the assault in Fiji in 2008.
“As a backdrop to the appeal, there are the country information reports tendered in support of the appellant’s refugee and protection claim, including reports on the high incidence of sexual violence in Fiji; criticisms of the police force and its ability to protect women from violence in Fiji; and the patriarchal nature of Sunni Islam,” the IPT decision says.
Her grandparents submitted they would be distressed to see the woman sent back to Fiji.
“They consider it an unsafe place for single young females,” the tribunal said.
“For the combined reasons of her family nexus to New Zealand and vulnerability, the tribunal finds that the appellant has exceptional humanitarian circumstances and it would be unduly harsh to require her to return to Fiji now when she particularly needs the emotional support and care of her family.”
The above story first appeared in the Stuff publication of New Zealand and thereafter in Fiji Times.