Deporting me would end my dreams: rape convict

A Samoan man who was convicted of rape and is fighting his deportation to Samoa told a tribunal that sending him back would be the “end of all his dreams.”

Matila Ilia-Neemia, 23, appeared before an Immigration and Protection Tribunal and argued that he has spent all his early adult life in New Zealand and he did not know how to move on with his life in Samoa.

But in a recently-released decision, the tribunal declined his appeal, saying Ilia-Neemia had not established he and his family have “exceptional circumstances” to warrant him being allowed to stay after being found guilty of a heinous crime. 

Ilia-Neemia moved to New Zealand in 2011 at the age of 13 and became a resident after he was adopted by his aunt and uncle, who also have residency.

“He wants to play rugby at a representative level. He also has artistic talent and wants to study at university, get a qualification and in the long term, get a job in the arts,” the Tribunal decision read.

“That kind of education is impossibly expensive in Samoa. The appellant has been away from Samoa for such a long time; he has spent all his early adult life here in New Zealand. 

“He would not know how to respond to the Samoan environment. He has a very good job in New Zealand with which he can support himself and help his family both in New Zealand and Samoa. 

“In Samoa, it is very difficult to get a job. He does not know what would be available to him. He may be able to get some building work with his father, but he really does not know if that is possible.”

Ilia-Neemia could not understand why the deportation notice was not served on him earlier, immediately after his rape conviction, the Tribunal was told. 

(He ended up serving less than two-and-a-half years of a six-year sentence).

“He learnt a lot in prison and thought that, on his release, he could start afresh. He concentrated on doing everything he needed to do to meet his parole conditions. He attended 16 appointments with a psychologist,” the decision continues.

“Not a single day goes by without the appellant thinking about what he did and he would never do what he did again. He has put himself in his victim’s shoes. 

“He now knows how to deal with anger and to slow down and think rationally. He seeks the chance to prove that he is a good person who made a bad decision.”

Ilia-Neemia’s adopted older sister, who is a New Zealand citizen and was 14 when she left Samoa, stated in her submission to the tribunal that it would be very difficult for the appellant to live and get a job in Samoa.

”Most young men his age work in plantations and do not have paid jobs. There is only a very small plantation on the family property,” the decision read. 

“It would be very hard for the appellant to readjust to the subsistence living in Samoa. It is a harsh way of life.”

Her brother contributes to her and her brothers’ families and to the church, where he has influenced young people to take the right path, his sister said in her submission.

“His nephews and nieces all love him. Importantly, in New Zealand, he has her and his two older brothers to guide him and keep him on the right path. She knows that the responsibility for what he has done lies heavily on him but she believes he has the right mindset for the future,” the sister added.

“If he is deported, it would not just be distressing and hard for her but for her brothers and all their families as well. 

“The appellant would no longer be able to contribute to the living expenses of their parents and the rest of the family in Samoa.

“If their father gets building work, it is only casual and he has to split the earnings between a number of workers. In Samoa, the pay is $3 to $4 per hour, not $18 to $19 like it is here.”

At his sentencing, the tribunal was told that Ilia-Neemia entered the woman’s home through an unlocked door after he heard the shower running.

He then pulled the woman out of the shower and raped her in the bathroom and her bedroom.

Ilia-Neemia was served with a deportation liability notice in late 2019 and appealed to the Immigration and Protection Tribunal on humanitarian grounds.

But in dismissing his application, the tribunal found that a loss in living standards was not an uncommon consequence of deportation.

The tribunal then ruled he did not have “exceptional” humanitarian circumstances. 

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