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Deportation of refugees


When can refugees be deported?

Immigration Act 2009, ss 129(2), 130(4), 131(4), 146, 162, 164(3), (4); United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees 1951, Articles 32.1, 33

If you’ve been recognised as a refugee, you can be deported only if:

  • you’ve committed very serious crimes or are a threat to New Zealand national security, or
  • your refugee status has been cancelled because you obtained it through fraud or forgery.

Those two sets of grounds for deportation are explained below.

Immigration Act 2009, ss 130(4), 131(4), 164(4)

People who’ve been recognised in New Zealand as a “protected person” also have some protections against deportation.

Threat to national security or a danger to the community

Immigration Act 2009, ss 129(2), 164(3); UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees 1951, Article 33

You can’t be deported to any place where your life or freedom would be at risk unless:

  • you’ve been convicted of a particularly serious crime and so are a danger to the community, or
  • the New Zealand government has reasonable grounds to believe you’re a threat to New Zealand’s security.

If you’re being deported because of a serious crime, you can’t be deported until you’ve had the chance to use all your appeal rights against your conviction through the criminal courts.

Case: High Court, Wellington, CIV 2008-485-668, 5 September 2008

For example, a refugee was deported after being convicted of abduction and several counts of rape.

Case: [2005] NZSC 38

If you’re being deported because you’re a threat to national security, the government must have objectively reasonable grounds for believing this, and the threatened harm has to be substantial. If those requirements are met, you can be deported; the government doesn’t have to assess how much danger you’ll be in if you’re deported and weigh that against the danger you represent to New Zealand.

Immigration Act 2009, ss 129(2), 164(3); UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees 1951, Article 32.1

There’s also a separate rule that says you can’t be deported from New Zealand regardless of whether this would put you in danger, unless you’re a threat to New Zealand’s “national security or public order”. In this case, you have to be given a reasonable time to apply to enter another country legally. You also have the right to appeal the decision to deport you.

Cancellation of your refugee status for fraud, forgery or misinformation

Immigration Act 2009, ss 146, 162

Your refugee status can be cancelled, and you can be deported, if you had originally obtained your recognition as a refugee through fraud, forgery, or false or misleading information, or through concealing relevant information. To be able to cancel your status, Immigration New Zealand must also have decided that you’re not really a refugee.

You have four weeks (28 days) to appeal to the Immigration and Protection Tribunal on the facts or on humanitarian grounds, or both (or, if the fraud or forgery and so on was established through you being convicted of a crime, then on humanitarian grounds only).

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Where to go for more support

Community Law


Your local Community Law Centre can provide free initial legal advice and information.

Immigration New Zealand


Immigration New Zealand is the government organisation that deals with visa applications and other immigration issues. It’s part of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.


You can read Immigration NZ’s Operational Manual at www.immigration.govt.nz/opsmanual

Immigration and Protection Tribunal


Red Cross Refugee Trauma Recovery


This Refugee Trauma Recovery service provides clinical and therapeutic support to former refugees who have experienced torture and/or trauma. The service is available to children, young people and adults.

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