Saddam-connected refugee gets to stay in New Zealand

BEN HEATHER
Last updated 05:00 09/02/2013

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The son of a high-ranking official in Saddam Hussein's regime has been granted refugee status in New Zealand after his father was kidnapped and his brother murdered.

The Immigration and Protection Tribunal overruled Immigration New Zealand, despite officials claiming that the man was using false identity papers.

The tribunal decision released yesterday shows the man fled Iraq in 2010 after his brother was murdered in a barbershop they ran together in Baghdad.

Weeks earlier, his father, a former senior member of Saddam's Ba'ath Party, was abducted from their home.

The man, who is not named in the decision, joined the Ba'ath Party himself briefly as a teenager but had no strong political feelings and left before the American invasion in 2003.

However, following the fall of Saddam's regime, the man's family was repeatedly subjected to threats, beatings and interrogations by militia groups.

Threats were left outside the brothers' barbershop and family home, including the claim their "life was worth less than a bullet" and a bullet wrapped in paper.

The day after his father temporarily fled the country in 2006, the man and his brother were kidnapped and blindfolded by armed man.

Over three days they were questioned about their father and beaten.

During another interrogation in 2009, the man was kicked in the head and lost consciousness.

Immigration New Zealand initially refused the man refugee status because it was believed he was using false documents.

However, the tribunal also heard evidence from another Iraqi refugee who had known the man's family in Iraq and confirmed his identity.

The tribunal concluded that if the man returned to Iraq he would likely suffer "serious harm in the form of severe physical violence, targeted killing or abduction".

It noted that the man's former home suburb, Sadr City - once known as Saddam City - was now a stronghold for Shia paramilitary group The Mahdi Army.

Immigration New Zealand figures show 86 Iraqis have been granted refugee status in the past decade.

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- Fairfax Media

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