Iain Lees-Galloway to decide former child gang member's New Zealand residency

A man with a beard and glasses.
Iain Lees-Galloway. Photo credit: Newshub/Anna Bracewell-Worral

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway will decide if a man, who believes he is in grave danger if he goes home to Malaysia, will stay in New Zealand.

The man, who has not been named, is designated a protected person - but a criminal act during his time in Malaysia means he was denied refugee status.

He has appealed and the case has gone to the Immigration Minister to decide.

The man arrived in New Zealand trying to escape a gang he joined at the age of 11, where he was forced to take part in robberies and hide a body.

He left Malaysia for Australia after leaving the gang and faced attacks and threats from his former fellow gang members.

He was sent back to Malaysia after being caught overstaying his visa in Australia, and was told he would spend years in a detention centre if he applied for refugee status.

The man and his partner realised Malaysia was still unsafe when they arived and fled to New Zealand in 2016.

His partner has already been granted refugee status, but the man has been declined due to a criminal act he committed in Malaysia.

The act was not committed while he was in the gang, but shortly before he left in 2016 he drove his car at a group of gang members in an attempt to scare them.

The Immigration and Protection Tribunal says there are clear mitigating factors in the man's decision to commit the act, including his mental state after being involved with the gang for so long.

But it's still a criminal act that was non-political, which means he is excluded from protection under the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.

"He was not under any immediate threat to his safety at the time of the attack; he sought out and drove into the gang members unprovoked," the Tribunal said. "He was of the age of criminal responsibility, and in both Malaysia and New Zealand he would be facing imprisonment for an appreciable number of years."

The Tribunal said it's up to Lees-Galloway to decide whether the man should be allowed to stay.

"The Minister must make any decision as to the appellant's immigration status, due to the Tribunal's finding that he is a protected person, and that there are serious reasons under section 198(1)(c) of the [Immigration Act 2009] for considering that the appellant has committed a serious non-political crime outside New Zealand before coming to New Zealand."

A spokesperson for Lees-Galloway told Newshub no decision has been made at this stage.