By Gurbir Singh:
A 27-year-old former student, whose family in Punjab (India) borrowed large sums to fund his study in New Zealand, has been granted a year’s temporary work visa to earn and repay his father’s loans.
This person’s application for a refugee claim “for fears of harm from a money lender, to whom his father owes money”, was earlier declined by the Immigration and Protection Tribunal on 14 March this year. At that time the applicant was identified only as ‘GM’ and had represented himself before the Tribunal.
According to a RNZ report, the Tribunal has now upheld his appeal against deportation for his humanitarian circumstances, especially arising out of threats to his family from money lenders back in India. If deported, he would be unable to repay the bulk of the debt, it said.
Accordingly, the Tribunal granted him a 12-month work visa with eligibility to apply for extension after its expiry.
As per the information submitted to the Tribunal earlier, his father is a government employee and due to retire in August 2019. Currently, he owes the money lender approximately INR1,300,000 (approx NZ$26,899).
Their family home was used as a guarantee for the loan but a “sale was not forced by the money lender, as legally they would be unable to do so.”
Money lender had reportedly made repeated physical threats to the family for recovery of their dues and the family was living in constant fear. His son here was regularly remitting his savings to help his family repay.
While upholding ‘GM’s appeal against deportation and granting him a temporary reprieve, the Tribunal accepted the applicant’s claim “that his family has been threatened with physical harm and sexual assault, their property has been damaged and his father has been assaulted by the money lender and his associates, to whom the father owes IRS 1,300,000 (approx. NZ$ 26,899) due to delays in the repayment of the loan.
“The father has attempted to commit suicide due to depression arising from the threats from the moneylender.
“This will result in his family facing homelessness and other significant hardship.”
The Tribunal also accepted the “ongoing risks to the safety of the appellant and his family if the loan was not repaid, including through instalments, from the money lender in Punjab,” it said.
‘GM’ reportedly came to New Zealand on a student visa in August 2012 to study Diploma in Hotel Management.
To fund his studies and travel, his father took out a bank loan for his tuition of INR 1 million (approx. NZ$ 20,000). He subsequently borrowed INR 9000,000 for his son’s living costs and other expenses.
Having faced difficulty with his initial course of study, ‘GM’ enrolled and completed instead a diploma of business management course.
In February 2016, Immigration New Zealand (INZ) granted the appellant an open post-study work visa, valid until 26 February 2017. He worked as a trainee manager at a large chain restaurant. During this period, he was able to make repayments of approximately INR 400,000 towards the loan.
In April 2017, his application for an employer assisted post-study work visa was declined. INZ was not satisfied that the appellant’s qualification of a Diploma in Business, was relevant nor a key factor to his employment as a trainee manager.
As a result, he stopped working and was unable to send any money to his father. He then reportedly borrowed money from friends locally in order to survive.
In mid-2017, he requested a work visa (under section 61) on four separate occasions. The first three were refused. The fourth application was replaced when he lodged his claim for recognition as a refugee or protected person.
In December 2017, he started working again after his asylum-seeker work visa was approved.
‘GM’, who has three sisters back home and a mother who is a house-wife, felt an overwhelming sense of responsibility and shame for having put his family in this situation.
He requested to remain in New Zealand to earn and repay the loan before returning home. This wish has now been granted by the Tribunal.