19 Feb 2015

Lawyer says Chilean family 'wasting' time

12:50 pm on 19 February 2015

An immigration lawyer says a Chilean family taking refuge in a church in Christchurch to avoid deportation is wasting their time and should consider heading back to Chile.

The Ravet family has lived in New Zealand for 11 years and have a nine year old daughter who was born here - but the parents' work permits have expired.

Mauricio Ravet and daughter Kate on 18 February 2015.

Mauricio Ravet and daughter Kate. Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

Their immigration consultant said they would stay in the church until the Government considered their case to stay.

But convenor of the Law Society immigration committee, Marcus Beveridge, said although he was not familiar with the details of this case on the face of it, it looked unlikely they would be allowed to stay.

Mr Beveridge said that under a 2006 law the children of those on work permits are no longer granted automatic citizenship. He said the circumstances of this case are common.

Mauricio Ravet said he took his wife and two daughters to the church to avoid being arrested and put on the next flight to Chile.

"At this moment, the police and immigration are chasing me. They went to my home twice and the second time they spoke with my son and they said to my son if I don't make any arrangements to leave the country, they will put my wife in jail and they will send my two daughters to care."

The family's work permits have expired but they argue they should be allowed to stay, particularly for the sake of their nine-year-old daughter who was born here and is now a citizen.

Mr Ravet said he had contributed a lot to the country during 11 years in New Zealand including setting up a painting business and employing four people.

"We are a Christian family. We are not criminals at all. All the years we've been living here we've been doing everything to remain in the country and be a positive contribution to the country."

Mr Ravet said his daughter Kate would struggle in Chile.

"We haven't got any security for her in my country because she is not a Chilean. She's a New Zealander so she can't get a public education, health care and all that stuff."

Kate Ravet said her home was in New Zealand. "I am a Kiwi and I want to stay here with my family and live here," she said.

The family's immigration consultant, Tuariki Delamere, said a Supreme Court decision in 2009 stated the family should be allowed to stay for the sake of their daughter. But the Immigration Act was subsequently amended to allow the parents of New Zealand citizen children to be deported.

"It was passed in the dead of night during the reading of the immigration bill. I believe if the minister had been honest and straight up and said the effect of this legislation is to take away the rights of citizen children to go to the tribunal, I don't believe it would have passed at all," said Mr Delamere.

The priest at the church where the family sought refuge declined to be interviewed and asked that the name of his church not be reported.

Mr Delamere said he didn't know how much time the family may have bought themselves by seeking refuge in a church.

"I believe there's no law that gives protected status to the church but certainly I think the police would not want to be going into a church to arrest these people."

The Ravets had written to Prime Minister John Key and Associate Immigration Minister Craig Foss asking for them to intervene.

A spokesperson for Mr Foss said no compliance action would be taken until the request for help had been considered by the minister.

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