NZ tribunal, hears how deaf woman was abused and treated as house slave in Samoa


After being taken from her teenage mother at birth, Chloe* was passed through the homes of her paternal family where she was abused, used as a slave, deprived of an education and mocked for being mute.

RNZ reports, five decades on, she has fought and won the right to permanently return to the home of her mother in New Zealand.

The 49-year-old’s life, and much of what she endured while being raised by extended family in Samoa, was laid bare in a decision to grant her a resident visa, which will allow her to remain in New Zealand where her birth mother lives.

Chloe, who is deaf and has limited communication ability, had made a humanitarian appeal to the Immigration and Protection Tribunal against her liability for deportation after finding herself in New Zealand unlawfully.

The tribunal recently found it would be unjust and unduly harsh for her to return to Samoa, citing her disability, the mutually supportive and caring relationship she has with her mother, and her dim prospects in the small island country as grounds to grant the visa.

But their journey to reconciliation has been long and winding.

Chloe, who was born in Apia, Samoa, was taken from her 16-year-old mother at birth by her paternal grandparents. The grandparents raised her for a time but when they died, Chloe was passed around to her aunts and uncles, where she was used as a “household slave” and never attended school.

She was also subjected to long-term abuse, though the nature of the abuse was redacted from the tribunal’s decision.

Around 2009, Chloe’s mother, who has lived in New Zealand since 2002 and was granted residency in 2007, became aware of the environment her daughter was living in.

She travelled to Samoa to get to know Chloe and improve her well-being and living circumstances. But the family denied the mother access.

However, she returned again the following year for the same purpose and was permitted to briefly meet with Chloe before being asked to leave.

During this brief period, the mother witnessed the ill-treatment of her daughter and contacted a victim support team in Samoa.

Eventually, Chloe was removed from her aunt’s house and taken to live with her mother’s cousin.

Chloe has moved again, this time to people who were not relatives, while the mother continued to visit and make plans for her daughter to travel to New Zealand.

She arrived in New Zealand in December 2018 on a three-month visitor visa before leaving in March 2019.

A year later, she was issued a further three-month visa and visited between June 2019 and September 2019. During each trip, she stayed with her mother.

Chloe subsequently returned to New Zealand in December 2019, again on a three-month visitor visa, and has not since departed.

In March, Chloe appealed to the tribunal to remain in New Zealand.

At a hearing in August, the tribunal was told that while Chloe met her own personal care and day-to-day living needs, she would struggle to live independently.

It also heard that since being reunited, Chloe and her mother had formed a strong companionship.

A number of family members, friends and church members wrote to the tribunal detailing Chloe’s long history of neglect and their concerns if she was to return to Samoa.

After considering all of the evidence, the tribunal determined it would be unjust or unduly harsh for her to be deported.

“The tribunal finds that there are exceptional circumstances of a humanitarian nature arising from the appellant’s need to remain in a safe and loving environment in New Zealand, as opposed to returning to a life of mistreatment and neglect in Samoa.”