A failed asylum seeker whom New Zealand authorities have been trying to return to Iran for more than 20 years has lost his appeal against deportation.
In one of the longest such cases, Amir Hoshang Mohebbi lost an asylum claim in 1997 – and another a decade later – but was able to stay in the country for 25 years.
He refused to apply for a passport in the 2000s, which at the time meant he could not be sent home, and was convicted of drug trafficking and bigamy.
Twice he won appeals against deportation because he started new relationships.
In November 2000 he was found guilty of taking a false oath upon arriving in New Zealand and of bigamy, his first marriage not being dissolved when he married in 1998.
The following year he broke a protective order granted for the safety of his second wife, but by then he was in a new relationship and his new partner went into labor soon after.
In 2003, Immigration New Zealand (INZ) served another removal order and took him into custody.
But INZ could not deport Mohebbi as he again refused to produce his Iranian passport or apply for a new Iranian passport and New Zealand had no agreement with Iran for the return of people without passports. .
“On a petition for habeas corpus, the High Court ordered [his] released on the grounds that the Immigration Act 1987 permitted his detention for the purpose of establishing his identity, not for the purpose of persuading him to produce or apply for a passport,” the notes of his latest said. appeal to the Immigration and Protection Tribunal (IPT).
Mohebbi made a second application for refugee status, which was rejected, as were several residence visa applications to the Minister of Immigration.
He was again detained on committal warrants, while refusing to provide a passport.
“In November 2007, after nearly four years in detention, the High Court ordered his release on the grounds that there were exceptional circumstances warranting release pending an agreement between New Zealand and Iran to the return of Iranian nationals.
“On his release, Immigration New Zealand granted him a limited use permit and then a work permit. In March 2009, he applied for residency on the basis of his partnership with his partner. In April 2010, Immigration New Zealand granted granted a resident visa to the appellant.
But Mohebbi imported methamphetamine the same year by sending from Iran hidden in a picture frame. He was not prosecuted and it was not until eight years later, after he was caught importing and supplying methamphetamine and selling cannabis, that he was imprisoned.
He was arrested when he went to pick up two bags containing nearly half a kilogram of methamphetamine at the customs service delivery counter.
He was imprisoned for 10 years and five months, with a minimum term of imprisonment of five years. However, in 2020 the Court of Appeal removed this minimum sentence and three months later he was released on parole.
‘Determined to stay’
A clinical psychologist told the court that Mohebbi said he would kill himself rather than be deported to Iran.
“It shows that he still had the stubbornness and defiance he showed in the mid-2000s when he refused to cooperate with authorities seeking to arrange his return to Iran. … [He] has lived in New Zealand for nearly 25 years and is determined to continue to live in the country.”
The court summarized what the 49-year-old said about why he should be allowed to stay.
“Since his release from prison, [he] states that he did everything he could to move on with his life and not repeat his previous mistakes. He committed himself with all his supports until he started working and complied with the requirements of parole, including reporting to his probation officer every two weeks and taking drug tests for dope.
“[Mohebbi] feels remorse for his offence. He states he has no excuses and apologizes to the New Zealand public for what he has done. He says he learned a lot about himself in prison and in the programs he went through, and he will never do it again.
“He says the most important thing in his life now is to play a meaningful role in the lives of his children. He wasn’t there for them when he was in prison. It’s something he will always deeply regret.
“The caller states that his life would be meaningless without his children and that he would struggle mentally if separated from them. He feels more like a New Zealander than an Iranian. He would not have no life in Iran.”
A lawyer for INZ, who issued the last eviction notice, told the court that of Mohebbi’s quarter century in New Zealand, only 15 years had been spent in the community.
Over four years was in immigration detention for not providing a passport, five years were spent in prison and almost two years spent abroad, mostly in Iran, between 2010 and 2015.
The IPT ruled that the father of three had no exceptional circumstances and should be deported.
“The court accepts that [Mohebbi] his children would be bored if he were to return to Iran, and they would miss him. However, they are now young adults who are employed, financially independent and able to maintain a relationship with him, should he return to Iran.”