A tribunal panel in New Zealand said the Samoan woman convicted of fraud in New Zealand under a false identity for decades, should get another chance to stay.
Stuff reported the woman, who is now 51, was born in Samoa. In 1991, she assumed the identity of a Tokelauan national – a member of her extended family – and travelled to New Zealand on her passport.
The woman, identified only as MX in a recent decision from the Immigration and Protection Tribunal, has lived in New Zealand ever since.
According to Stuff the woman later sponsored her Fiji-born husband to come to New Zealand using her assumed identity.
He has since become a citizen and the couple had three children, who are also citizens. The woman’s fraud was not discovered until 2000 when the relative whose identity she’d assumed applied for a New Zealand passport.
MX was convicted of using a false passport and presenting a misleading arrival at the airport. She was sentenced to 100 hours of community service and served with an order that she is removed from New Zealand.
However, in the 20 years since, she has remained in the country and mounted a series of appeals for a residency visa, saying she had “nothing to return to” in Samoa.
She told the tribunal she had built “strong ties” to Aotearoa over the past 30 years – she and her husband own a home and a rental property in Auckland and run a commercial cleaning franchise here.
She had “more than paid the price” for her fraud and since served “almost three life sentences of stress and uncertainty because of her lack of residence status”, she claimed.
In examining her case, the tribunal noted the woman did have strong ties to Aotearoa – however, she was only able to build them because she unlawfully entered New Zealand, then remained here for decades.
However, it also noted the woman’s husband and three children had never lived in Samoa and the husband did not have an automatic right to do so.
It was in their best interests for their family to be kept together in New Zealand, it said.