9 Feb 2018

'Earthquake refugees' granted NZ residency

7:58 am on 9 February 2018

A couple have been told they can remain in New Zealand because of the post-traumatic stress disorder they suffered in the Nepal earthquake.

Nepal earthquake

Quake damage in Nepal after the 2015 shake that killed thousands of people. Photo: CC BY 2.0 / United Nations Development Programme

They sought to be New Zealand's first 'earthquake refugees' after the magnitude-7.8 shake in 2015 which killed 9000 people and injured 22,000.

The full decisions can be found here and here.

It left the retired couple homeless, traumatised and in chronic pain.

They were turned down for refugee status but have been granted residence because of their exceptional humanitarian circumstances.

They told the immigration and protection tribunal about the flashbacks the 55-year-old woman still has of the people who died in front of her in Kathmandu, including her friend.

"On the day the earthquake struck, the couple struggled to get out of the debris of their home," the tribunal recorded.

"The husband could not get out and the wife damaged her leg trying to do so. For three months they lived in a tent outside the house.

"After the earthquake, the appellants lost hope in Nepal. In the year before they were able to come to New Zealand, the wife constantly felt like crying, she would forget everything, she felt frightened all the time, and also tired and weak."

She said she was startled by small noises, her heart used to pound and she ran out of the house a dozen times at night.

The wife's post-traumatic stress disorder also caused the chronic physical condition fibromyalgia, which normal painkillers do not help.

Her husband was bedridden for months following surgery and both talked about it not being worth carrying on among the ongoing aftershocks.

The tribunal ruled their refugee claims were credible but not well-founded in terms of international refugee or protection law.

However, it said their exceptional humanitarian circumstances warranted upholding an appeal against being deported back to Nepal.

The tribunal was told the couple's children and grandchildren, who live outside Nepal, were able to visit them more easily in New Zealand.

Their son, who already has New Zealand residence, will come to live with them, and look after them.

"In New Zealand, the wife sleeps better and does not run out of the house at night anymore. She feels secure that the house will not fall and kill them," it said.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs