Refugee status revoked for man who travelled repeatedly to China despite persecution claims

By Gill Bonnett, immigration reporter of RNZ, and is republished with permission.

A man who had his refugee status revoked has been accused of helping others make fraudulent asylum claims and offering to sponsor a woman’s visa through a fake marriage.

Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

The 37 year old returned to China six times after claiming he was at risk of persecution there – the first just weeks after he was told he could settle here.

Authorities cancelled his recognition as a refugee, saying he procured it by fraud or false information and his trips showed he no longer needed protection in New Zealand.

The man claimed in 2016 that he converted to Christianity and had been detained overnight in China for attending an underground house church. He provided photographs of his baptism and attendance at a church in New Zealand and an affidavit from a fellow member of the church congregation.

But two months after getting permanent residence he returned to China and stayed seven weeks.

In 2019, he was convicted of assault with intent to injure and threatening to kill or commit grievous bodily harm and has since been charged with receiving stolen property.

The Immigration and Protection Tribunal ruled it could not hear his appeal until he was served with a deportation liability notice, but it detailed the accusations against him.

“In 2018 and 2019, the Refugee Status Unit became concerned that [he] may have been facilitating fraudulent refugee claims after he had been observed visiting the Unit’s office on a regular basis and taking multiple blank claim forms,” it said in its decision.

“Thereafter, the Refugee Status Unit received a number of what appeared to be templated claims from Chinese nationals who provided an address, phone number and email address which the appellant had used previously.”

They either did not attend interviews or were identified as having lodged false claims.

“One such person indicated that they had simply paid someone to get a work visa and were unaware that they had claimed refugee status.

“In March 2020, the Refugee Status Unit was made aware of a notice in simplified Chinese placed on a notice board at a tertiary education institute in New Zealand by a person stating they were a male, permanent resident, aged 33 years who was willing to sponsor a woman to immigrate through a ‘business marriage’.”

The phone number was the same as the man’s passenger arrival card contact details and he was also aged 33 at the time.

The man told the Refugee Status Unit (RSU) he still needed protection because of his religion, and had returned to China to see his mother who was in danger from Covid-19.

But the RSU cancelled its recognition of him as a refugee.

“It found that the evidence ‘strongly suggests’ that the appellant was involved in fraud relating to the refugee and protection system in New Zealand. When this was considered against his multiple returns to China, and that five of these six returns occurred prior to the outbreak of Covid-19 in China, a refugee and protection officer was satisfied that [he] may have falsely represented that he was a genuine Christian convert who had been detained and warned in the circumstances that he had claimed.”

His returns without incident to China showed he had no adverse profile with authorities there, it said.

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