22 Oct 2020

Woman's bid for review of cancelled passport decision unsuccessful

5:11 pm on 22 October 2020

A woman's application for a judicial review over the cancellation of her New Zealand passport has been dismissed.

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Photo: 123rf

The High Court in Wellington has released its judgement this afternoon, regarding the case that dates back to 2016.

The applicant has name suppression and is referred to in the ruling as 'Ms A'.

At the time, the acting Minister of Internal Affairs suspended Ms A's passport for 10 working days, while a report was being prepared about a possible cancellation of the passport.

Ms A's passport was then cancelled by the Minister after information was provided by the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS).

The NZSIS assessed that Ms A had attempted to travel to Syria in August 2015 to join the militant Islamic group, ISIL.

She was then detained by Turkish authorities on the border of Turkey and Syria on suspicion of attempting to enter Syria to marry an ISIL fighter and to join up with and support ISIL.

Ms A was then deported from Turkey in September and had tickets to return to Australia.

However, according to NZSIS Ms A changed flights in Kuala Lumpur and attempted to change her appearance before travelling around the Middle East for several weeks.

Her brother then met her in Qatar and she then travelled to Oman and then to New Zealand, where Customs were told that she had no intention of going to Syria and was instead trying to visit family in a Turkish refugee camp.

The NZSIS also found that her online activity demonstrated support for ISIL.

In October Ms A and her brother attempted to travel to Indonesia, but were declined entry and returned to New Zealand.

In 2016, Ms A travelled to Australia after her New Zealand passport was suspended, using her Australian citizenship to gain entry.

However, the NZSIS believed that she still intended to travel to Syria to join ISIL.

In 2017, former government ministers Judith Collins and Peter Dunne completed affidavits confirming the grounds on which they had made the suspension and cancellation decision.

This year, Ms A's one-page affidavit did not address the factual matters about her previous conduct and instead focused on the point that her passport ceased to exist before the minister's decision, so there was nothing to attach the decision to.

Ms A's special advocate, Mr Keith raised a range of grounds for challenging the lawfulness of the cancellation.

He suggested that taking her religious beliefs, including her public support of ISIL's position, into account to justify the cancellation would have a chilling effect on the applicant's own perception of these freedoms.

However, none of those grounds were made out and the application was dismissed.

The cancellation of the passport lapsed after 12 months, but she has not applied to get a new one issued to her.

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