Convicted forger and sex offender denied refugee status, must leave NZ. (File photo)
A Sri Lankan man convicted of sexual assault and counterfeiting currency has been denied refugee status in New Zealand.
The man – who comes from a wealthy family – is afraid he will be “labelled as a criminal sex offender” if he returns to Sri Lanka.
He initially claimed he was bisexual, but when the man was questioned by the Refugee Status Unit he retracted that statement.
The Immigration and Protection Tribunal found the man’s belief that he would be persecuted was not well founded and his appeal for refugee status was rejected.
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The 33-year-old man also said he was afraid of retaliation after he was charged with attempted murder in 2013 for hitting a man with some timber while protecting one of his family’s 15 sawmills from a gang.
He spent 28 days in jail and was released after his family paid money to local authorities.
He was threatened and, fearful of gang retaliation, the man said he “went into hiding” at a family home.
In a bid to flee Sri Lanka for his “own safety”, he applied for a student visa in New Zealand in 2014.
Four years later, he was still in New Zealand on an essential skills work visa and was spending his time partying and using drugs.
At one party, he sexually assaulted a woman while intoxicated. He was arrested and charged.
While out on bail, the partying continued. This time, he made and used counterfeit money to keep up the habit.
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In November 2019, the man was convicted of 18 counts of using forged documents and one count of theft (of a sum under $500).
He was sentenced to four months’ imprisonment, which was increased by extra two years and eight months after he was also convicted of “unlawful sexual connection” with a woman aged over 16.
The man said his family in Sir Lanka was threatened and harassed because of his offending. They would not support him when he returned.
The tribunal found there was no “real chance” of serious harm by the people who attacked one of his family’s sawmills.
It acknowledged that it may be hard for the man to go back to Sir Lanka after his offending in New Zealand but said there was “no right to be liked by everyone”.
As to the lack of family support, the tribunal noted the man was 33 years old.
“He has lived independently of his family for many years and is not compelled to return to them in Sri Lanka.”
The man’s appeal was dismissed.
He remains liable to be deported at the end of his sentence.