July 17, 2017 7:05 pm

Tunisian refugee to be deported from Fiji, fears joining ISIS

Immigration officials in Nadi were unsuccessful in deporting the man last year when the flight captain refused to board him after a commotion before boarding.

According to court documents, Mohammed Arfoui is a Tunisian national who came to Fiji in April 2015 and was given a 4-month visitor’s visa upon arrival.

Two weeks later, Arfoui lodged an asylum application with the Department of Immigration, which was referred to the UNHCR in Australia for further processing and background checking.

In October 2015, the UNHCR responded that Arfoui did not meet the criteria for international refugee protection.

“Based on this assessment, UNHCR recommends that the Government of Fiji reject Arfaoui’s claim for refugee status.”

An official from the immigration department informed Mr Arfaoui in January 2016 that he was not eligible for refugee protection, and gave Arfaoui 21 days to file an appeal.

“…your claim does not determine well-founded fear or experience harm if returned to your country of nationality…”

Mr Arfaoui appealed against the decision and explained that he left Tunisia to seek asylum in Fiji out of fear of either joining ISIS or bring killed in a bomb blast.

“ISIS has forced me on several occasions to join them but I consider their act as inhumane and a breach of ALLAH’s commandments.”

The refugee acknowledged the Government, as “they never distinguished me from other citizens of the country”

“I already adapted to the life style here in Fiji.  The life here in Fiji is really good…I feel really safe here as I know I have nothing to fear.”

A removal order was issued on 31 August 2016, signed by the permanent secretary for Defence, National Security, and Immigration.

According to a Senior Immigration Officer based in Nadi, Arfaoui caused a “commotion” before boarding the aircraft, which resulted in the flight captain declaring him a “flight risk” and refused him a seat on the plane.

Immigration officials have found it difficult to return Arfaoui to Tunisia and are currently negotiating with a travel agent in Suva for transfer via Hong Kong.

Mr Arfaoui has been remanded at the Natabua Remand Center in Lautoka since and filed for an Interim Stay of the removal order at the Lautoka High Court in November 2016.

Last week, Lautoka High Court Judge Anare Tuilevuka refused Arfaoui’s application.

“…I think the decision to refuse Mr Arfaoui’s application is fortified by the fact that is based on a report of the UNCHR…”

Judge Tuilevuka said UNHCR was qualified to make the assessment, and the applicant did not have a right to judicial review.