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Christian refugee sent back to Iran

Last updated 14:23 02/04/2008
BEN WATSON/North Shore Times
FUTURE FEARS: Bahareh Moradi has lost her last chance to stay in New Zealand.

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A last-ditch attempt to stop the deportation of an Iranian Christian has been rejected by Associate Immigration Minister Shane Jones.

Mr Jones will not overrule an Immigration New Zealand decision to deport 25-year-old Birkenhead resident Bahareh Moradi.

His decision writes off the last chance Miss Moradi had to stay in New Zealand.

Her three brothers live in New Zealand. All have refugee status.

The Moradi family had applied for the deportation to be put on hold until after a High Court judicial review of Miss Moradi’s case in July.

That request was turned down by the High Court in March.

As the North Shore Times went to print, Miss Moradi was waiting to be sent to Iran by immigration officials.

It is feared going back to Iran could be dangerous because she has become a Christian.

Under Sharia law, converting from Islam to Christianity is a sin and can be punished by death.

Her pastor at St Aiden’s Presbyterian Rinny Westra is shocked at the minister’s decision to uphold the deportation order.

He says it is based on flawed reports from the Refugee Status Appeals Authority and Immigration New Zealand.

"I consider it a complete miscarriage of justice.

"I testified to her Christian commitment and I still testify to that."

Northcote MP Jonathan Coleman says he has done all he can to help Miss Moradi.

He presented a petition organised by Mr Westra to Parliament in March.

It was referred to select committee.

"What do you do? We have to accept it.

"Shane Jones has acted on the advice of his officials and they’ve said there isn’t a case to keep her here."

A spokesperson for Mr Jones says he is unable to comment unless the Moradi family signs a privacy waiver.

Miss Moradi was first declined for refugee status in 2006.

An appeal against that decision was declined by the Refugee Status Appeals Authority in 2007.

Its decision called her Christian conversion into question, despite Mr Westra’s testimony that her religious belief was genuine. The family then spent $5000 applying for a High Court judicial review of the decision, which is scheduled for July 28.

Immigration New Zealand refused to wait until then to deport Miss Moradi, and sent notice she would be deported on March 25 or 26.

Another $2500 was spent on the recently declined attempt to get a High Court injunction on the move.

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The Labour Department, which oversees Immigration New Zealand, is refusing to comment on Miss Moradi’s case while it is before the courts.

Its official statement says the fact Miss Moradi has lodged judicial review proceedings does not necessarily stop deportation.

- North Shore Times

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