A Papamoa woman claims her husband was deported over a mistake on his immigration documents he tried for years to have fixed.
Rafiq Islam was deported back to Bangladesh earlier this year because his visa documents had the wrong date of birth, his wife told RadioLIVE’s Mark Sainsbury on Thursday.
“The mistake was done by his agent back home,” said Fareena Ali.
It’s believed the agent had another client with the same name as Mr Islam, and got their dates mixed up.
“When he came to New Zealand, he told his agent to fix it and tell Immigration – which he agreed to, but later wanted another $10,000 to fix it.”
The agent later agreed to do it for free, but then disappeared.
Mr Islam came to New Zealand on a visitor visa in 2001, and the discrepancy was discovered when he applied for a long-term business visa (LTBV) in 2002.
“Immigration NZ was concerned around the information and documentation he provided in support of his LTBV application and declined the visa, asking him to leave the country in two weeks,” assistant general manager visa services Geoff Scott told Newshub.
“Mr Islam stayed here unlawfully until Immigration NZ received an information request from his advisor.”
Over the next several years, Ms Ali – an Australian citizen with New Zealand residency – says the family spent nearly $30,000 on lawyers, but the mistake was never corrected.
“If he didn’t say anything, no one would know. But he’s not like that – he wanted to be honest and he wanted to fix it.”
When Immigration NZ sent a letter saying he was facing deportation, she said their lawyer at the time played it down, assuring them Mr Islam wouldn’t be forcibly removed – except that’s exactly what happened.
Seven people “just turned up one night” in April and arrested her husband in front of their eight-year-old daughter, said Ms Ali.
“She’s struggling at school, she cries a lot and she misses him… Every time she sees the police she freaks out.”
Who’s to blame?
Mr Islam himself places the blame on his agent, not Immigration NZ.
“They said I should have fixed the mistake in my passport before travelling to New Zealand. I was just taking advice from our agent and he said it would be an easy fix once I am in New Zealand.”
Immigration NZ says Mr Islam “provided four different dates of birth”. Mr Islam says one is the initial mistake his agent made, another was a typo, the third was a mistake made on his daughter’s birth certificate. The fourth is the correct one.
Before he was deported, he says he supplied Immigration NZ with his hospital record, birth registration certificate from Bangladesh Embassy in Canberra and his passport with his correct date of birth.
“I do not blame Immigration NZ because mistakes made by my part for not checking what others doing and having it go on for too long. I take full responsibility for the mistakes in my file.
“I just want the minister to be kind to look into to get me to come back to my family because they are distraught.”
Immigration NZ said the specific reason why he was deported was that “he was not lawful – that is, had no valid visa of any kind that allowed him to remain in New Zealand”.
Immigration NZ’s website says visitor visas normally last for three months, and extensions are only granted in “special cases”.
Mr Islam says if Immigration NZ called the Bangladesh embassy in Canberra, they would verify the details he’s been trying to provide are correct.
‘It feels like someone has died’
Since they came to New Zealand, Ms Ali says her husband has been the perfect resident, without so much as a speeding ticket to his name.
“We want to be happy again, we want to be a family. At the moment… it feels like someone has died in the house.”
She said Immigration NZ told them to reapply for re-entry next March, 12 months after Mr Ali was deported.
Labour leader Jacinda Ardern told RadioLIVE while she wasn’t aware of the specific details of Mr Islam’s case, it did sound like a potential “injustice” had taken place.
“When someone’s trying to be honest and resolve the situation, you would hope that would reflect well,” she said on Friday.
“The Associate Minister does have discretion and that’s there for good reason.”