A survivor of domestic violence whose husband repeatedly strangled her in front of their young son has been granted refugee status in New Zealand.
The woman’s application was initially declined by a refugee and protection officer but that decision was overturned after she took her case to the Immigration and Protection Tribunal at Auckland in June.
The tribunal’s decision, released this month, said the 39-year-old and her 12-year-old son would be persecuted if they returned to their birth country of Sri Lanka.
The tribunal heard that the woman’s husband had regularly beaten, raped and verbally abused her since the couple wed in 2005 and beaten their son when he tried to protect his mother.
During one attack, in November 2016, the husband was alleged to have kicked the woman while they were travelling in a tuk-tuk because he believed the driver was looking at his wife in the rear vision mirror.
He pushed her from the moving tuk-tuk into the street, the tribunal decision said, and her skull cracked open. She needed surgery and 30 stitches.
“After the tuk-tuk incident, the mother was increasingly concerned that her husband would kill her and wanted to escape him,” the tribunal’s decision said.
The woman fled to New Zealand in 2017 on a visitor visa. She hoped to find work to support herself and her son.
However, despite her being offered a job, Immigration New Zealand declined her application for a work visa because “she was not considered to be suitably qualified”.
She was accepted into an academic course before finding out from another member of the Sri Lankan community that she could apply for refugee status.
The woman has since been able to access psychological support for the first time.
The tribunal heard the woman had been too scared to speak to health professionals or authorities, including the police, in Sri Lanka about the abuse because she worried her husband would find out.
Her husband had allegedly escaped prosecution for violent attacks on other family members by bribing police officers.
The man was said to have threatened to kill his wife when he found out she had no intention of returning to Sri Lanka.
The tribunal found the woman’s evidence credible and was satisfied she and her son would “face a real chance of serious harm” if they returned to Sri Lanka, where marital rape is legal.
It concluded the pair were refugees and could not be deported to Sri Lanka.