29 Jan 2018

Family facing death threats granted asylum

8:00 pm on 29 January 2018

A mother faced separating her family and leaving her nine-year-old son behind in New Zealand when he was the only member of his family who was granted refugee status.

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Photo: 123RF

The woman and her three sons have now all been granted asylum after the Czech family appealed their case.

The immigration and protection tribunal heard they received death threats from neo-Nazis and had their home attacked with firecrackers.

The mother, who is Caucasian and is separated from her Roma partner, says her eldest son was segregated, attacked and cursed at school and the teachers did nothing to intervene.

Her second son, who was adopted from an orphanage, was told he would have to go to a school specialising in learning disabilities because he was Roma and black.

He was granted asylum by the Refugee Status Branch last year but she and her other sons were turned down.

The mother told the tribunal she feared for the separation of her family and who would look after her middle son as his grandfather, who lives in New Zealand, was only on a temporary visa.

The tribunal ruled they had all suffered harassment and abuse in an escalating campaign of hate crimes.

They were called "dirty gypsies" at school, in parks, shops and on the streets.

They hid in an apartment building until it was dark after two skinheads brandishing knives shouted racist slurs.

The abuse culminated in an attack and written threats. The first letter appeared in her mailbox in 2015 saying: "All black filth needs Hitler to clean them up, but the time will come when someone even better than him will come along".

A month later, another letter said "gas smells great, doesn't it", alluding to the gas chambers used against Romani gypsies during the Second World War.

She reported both threats to the police but said the officer did not even record the complaints.

In 2016, she and the children hid in a bathroom all night when they heard firecrackers and breaking glass being thrown against her apartment, fearing Molotov cocktails were being hurled at the building.

They fled within a week of that attack to New Zealand.

"The mother took immediate steps to flee before the matter escalated any further," the tribunal said in its decision.

"In assessing the prospective predicament of the mother, the tribunal has particular regard to her fragile psychological state and her diminishing emotional and psychological resources to cope with the discrimination, harassment and violence targeted against herself and her family."

The tribunal said anti-Roma riots, marches and demonstrations began in 2013 and racism and hate crimes there were becoming more and more normal, and ruled the whole family was at risk of persecution.

Segregation in schools and lack of action against bullies was also widespread. The European Commission has initiated infringement proceedings against the Czech state for systematic discrimination.

The full decision can be read here.