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Work visa holder successfully appeals deportation due to pandemic — Re Singh [2021] NZIPT 505217 (Westlaw NZ)

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In the recent decision of Re Singh [2021] NZIPT 505217, the Immigration and Protection Tribunal ruled that it would be unjust or unduly harsh to deport Indian man Talwinder Singh home during a catastrophic COVID-19 outbreak there. It also said Mr Singh and his family in India would suffer economic hardship brought on by the pandemic as well as expose him to the possibility of infection on his flight home and possibly of infecting his mother who has diabetes, if he was deported.

Talwinder Singh had been living in New Zealand for six years when Immigration New Zealand (“INZ”) cancelled his Work to Residence visa and served him with a deportation notice after discovering he had used a fraudulently-obtained Indian driver's licence to secure visas.

In 2019, Mr Singh successfully took proceedings against his former employer in the Employment Relations Authority in respect of exploitative behaviour and was awarded $35,000; when his employer did not pay, a further $4,000 penalty was imposed. Mr Singh claimed INZ became involved when, in an act of revenge, his former employer told INZ his driver's licence was fraudulently obtained and it was cancelled.

The Immigration and Protection Tribunal decision described the current outbreak of COVID-19 in India as being “a humanitarian and economic crisis of potentially monumental proportions”. It outlined how health infrastructure is overwhelmed and there is a shortage of medical equipment, emergency healthcare, and healthcare workers.

The Tribunal distinguished the case of Re Rawat [2021] NZIPT 505207, decided in April 2021 (where a 23-year-old Indian man who lost his visa after a conviction for drink-driving was deported), ruling the COVID-19 outbreak in India at that time was not enough to meet the humanitarian grounds to avoid deportation.

For Alert24 coverage of this case, please click here. For commentary on the immigration law applied in this case, please refer to Human Rights Law at [IG207.01] “Grounds for determining humanitarian appeal” and [IG208.01] “Appeal on humanitarian grounds against liability for deportation”.

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