Critics want Auckland terrorist’s immigration history reviewed

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Gill Bonnett

Gill Bonnett

Wellington, September 18, 2021

And Charities call for an inquiry into refugee and asylum seekers services

The Auckland terrorist’s immigration history is a glaring omission in the review of events leading to the September 3, 2021 attacks, according to the National Party.

Charities say that services offered to asylum seekers also need reviewing, because huge gaps in services are exacerbating the trauma new arrivals feel after escaping their home country.

It is two weeks since Ahamed Aathil Mohamed Samsudeen stabbed shoppers at a supermarket in New Lynn.

Government orders review

The government announced on Thursday, September 16, 2021 a review covering three of his 10 years in New Zealand – the second period he spent in custody and since he was released.

It will look at the actions of Police, Corrections and the Security Intelligent Service in their dealings with Samsudeen and its primary focus is the period leading up to his release in July and the seven weeks before the attack.

The scope of the inquiry specifically excludes immigration, decisions taken before his latest period in custody and the legislation which agencies operate under.

Immigration issue ignored

National Party Immigration Spokesperson Erica Stanford said that the biggest piece of the jigsaw has been completely left out.

“Immigration really is the key to finding out why this guy was still in New Zealand and why he was not deported. And that is a big issue missing. He applied for refugee status not long after he arrived, and there are certainly questions around how he was granted that refugee status – why he was declined, why he was granted by the Immigration and Protection Tribunal, what evidence was supplied, and how much investigation was done into his claims by the IPT, as we now know, not to be correct,” she said.

Other issues to explore included why his deportation appeal was delayed, if he could have been detained in the meantime and whether he received adequate mental health and settlement support, Ms Stanford said.

 

Erica Stanford, National Party Spokesperson for Immigration (Party website)

 

Mental Health of the terrorist

“If you read the IPT report, it clearly states that this young man had severe depression, even before the post-traumatic stress and those things that caused the post-traumatic stress so he is obviously a deeply troubled young man right from a very early age. They knew that and there needs to be questions asked as to what sort of wraparound services we then put around him to keep him safe and also our community safe,” she said.

Labour MP and former Refugee Ibrahim Omer spoke in Parliament during the terrorist attack debate, stressing that he did not want Samsudeen to adversely affect other asylum seekers who come to New Zealand.

“We have been working around asylum seekers over the past few months because we identified a huge hole and the gap in the system and in the way that asylum seekers are being supported. We have heard that this person had a severe mental health issue and now, in our system asylum seekers get very little support around the mental health and other support,” he said.

Traumatised asylum seekers

Charities told RNZ many asylum seekers were left anxious, vulnerable and traumatised by their experiences in New Zealand.

Samsudeen arrived in 2011 and it was two years before he was accepted as a refugee.

The Asylum Seekers Support Trust had no dealings with him and its General Manager Tim Maurice said that it was not clear if Samsudeen got any support at all.

The early experiences of “convention refugees” – those who successfully seek asylum after they arrive here – are starkly different from the 1500 annual quota refugees, who receive orientation, English language classes and housing.

 
Asylum Seekers Support Trust General Manager Tim Maurice
(Photo Supplied to RNZ)

 

Some struggle to get work rights or a benefit, and the Auckland Charity runs a hostel as many cannot afford accommodation.

The Trust has called on the government to include convention refugees in its resettlement services strategy and to have an independent review.

Labour List MP and former refugee Ibrahim Omer (INL File Photo)

Inadequate information

Convention refugees also face protracted wait times for permanent residence, while other refugees automatically have that status on arrival.

“They have to be reliant on support either from an organisation like the Asylum Seeker Support Trust or whatever sort of funds they have been able to bring with them. And the length of time between the claim and interview has been growing and growing in the last couple of years. People who are successful at the first claim still do not have much support from immigration and beyond that point, they are on their own,” she said.

It contributed to asylum seekers feeling stigmatised, as though the quota was the only legitimate way to be a refugee in New Zealand. If they were not hooked into service providers it could lead to delays in receiving mental health treatment because full state-funded health care only came with residence.

The government announced in July 2021. a review of the policy of detaining some asylum seekers – an average of 10 a year – in prison, mainly at Mount Eden in Auckland.

Mr Omer said that work is underway to bring the level of services in line with those provided to quota refugees. He is working with the Associate Minister of Immigration Phil Twyford on a review of detention of asylum seekers in prison.

RNZ Picture by Samuel Rillstone

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) said in a statement that it would explore the inclusion of convention refugees during a “refresh” of the 2012 refugee resettlement strategy, but that would not cover asylum seekers given their undetermined refugee status.

Refugee and Migrant Services General Manager Fiona Whiteridge said that the review will include connecting them to government services such as healthcare, including funded mental health services, financial support, housing and education.

Settlement Support

“Convention refugees receive settlement support and are provided help to link them to services including health, employment and education in the community. They also have access to the driver training programme and the refugee employment programme as well as language support. Refugees and protected persons are eligible to apply for permanent residence and New Zealand citizenship after five years of residence. They may be eligible for a work visa while they are waiting for their residence visa application to be decided,” Ms Whiteridge said.

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