Tongan immigrant deportation order quashed, tribunal told to reconsider decision

A deportation order against a Tongan immigrant was quashed by the Supreme Court in Auckland on March 26 saying the immigration tribunal failed to take into account his age and New Zealand identity.

But it ordered that Immigration Tribunal has to review the deportation order.

Samuela Faletalavai Helu ,24, has lived in New Zealand since he arrived from Tonga in December 1996 at the age of six.

In April 2003, he and his family were granted residence permits.

When he was 17 years old, the appellant committed the aggravated robbery of a convenience store in Auckland and on 20 May 2009 he was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment.

As the aggravated robbery had taken place less than five years after the granting of his residence permit, conviction of the offence made the appellant eligible for deportation in the discretion of the Minister of Immigration under s 91(1)(c) of the Immigration Act 1987. The Minister ordered his deportation on 17 March 2010.

Helu appealed to the Immigration and Protection Tribunal but the Tribunal upheld the minister’s decision. The Tribunal found that, while it would be unduly harsh to deport Mr Helu, it was not persuaded that it would not be contrary to the public interest for him to remain in the New Zealand.

The appellant has sought judicial review of the Tribunal’s decision. In the Court of Appeal and High Court, the decision of the Tribunal was upheld. The Supreme Court gave the appellant leave to appeal.

The appellant submitted that the Tribunal had failed to take into account article 12(4) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantees that no-one will be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter their own country, and that the Tribunal failed properly to take into account his age.

The court therefore quashed the Tribunal’s decision but said it has to take further consideration of its decision.

Helu and his lawyer Mele Tu’ilotolava could not be reached for comments.

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