Filipinas flee abusive Kiwi relationships

22:54, Aug 25 2014
Ronnette Villaluz
DESPERATE: Filipina Ronnette Villaluz is caught in a difficult situation with immigration after Ronnette’s relationship with a Kiwi ended. Her visa runs out today.

When Ronnette Villaluz, 34, met a Christchurch business owner in the Philippines, he promised her love and a better life in New Zealand.

She left two children, friends and a job to follow him to Christchurch with her 11-year-old son.

But after only a few weeks, the relationship with the 52-year-old soured.

Following a dispute in June last year, the police charged him with assault with intent to injure. He is defending the charge.

Villaluz moved to a Christchurch refuge run by Shakti, a national organisation providing emergency accommodation for migrant women.

She is one of hundreds of women from Asian countries who come to New Zealand to live with Kiwi men. Migrant advocates and immigration specialists say these women are particularly vulnerable if their partners become abusive.

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Immigration New Zealand figures show the number of partnership visas issued to Filipino people have more than tripled in the last decade, rising from 159 in 2004/05 to 552 in 2013/14.

In the past five years, 908 migrants applied for work and residence visas under the Victims of Domestic Violence category.

Shakti co-ordinator Margie Agalid said a quarter of migrant women in Shakti refuges nationwide needed protection from abusive Kiwi partners. In most cases, the women had been introduced to their partner through a friend or a relative, giving them confidence to move to New Zealand.

It was hard for a Filipina to leave an abusive relationship.

"It is very difficult . . . to speak out because her family and friends will blame her. It's not acceptable to leave an abusive partner [in the Philippines]."

Villaluz applied for a work visa under the victims of domestic violence category but Immigration New Zealand (INZ) rejected her application because she had not lived with her partner for 12 months. She obtained a six-week visitor visa, which runs out today.

Her immigration lawyer, ParryField partner Kris Morrison, said immigration policy failed to protect such people.

In many cases, migrant women met their Kiwi partner online, and then in person a few times, before moving to New Zealand.

"Here is someone who needs help. It's not her fault that she has found herself in this situation but the current policy doesn't help her," Morrison said.

Villaluz is now staying with her friend and advocate, Margie Duff, also a Filipina.

Duff, a member of the "I care ministry" at the Jesus is Lord Church in Christchurch, said she knew of similar cases.

Since she started her role at the ministry about a year ago, about 12 Filipinas had talked to her about domestic violence and sexual abuse by their Kiwi partners.

"They're really scared and traumatised coming from a very conservative country," she said.

Duff said she suffered domestic violence when she arrived in New Zealand 12 years ago to live with a Kiwi man.

The Press