Jacinda Ardern says her government tried frustratingly for three years to deport the Auckland supermarket terrorist from New Zealand.
The 32-year-old Sri Lankan national responsible for Friday’s shocking knife attack was named on Saturday night after the lapsing of court-mandated suppression orders.
His name was Ahamed Aathill Mohamed Samsudeen.
His brother, Aroos, issued a statement through Samsudeen’s lawyer saying his family were “so shaken” by Friday’s attack.
“Unfortunately, Aathil was suffering from some mental health problems in his life,” he said.
“We saw his mental health got worse and worse during the last 10 years or so.
“We are heartbroken by this terrible event.”
Samsudeen spent a decade in New Zealand, arriving in 2011 on a student visa.
Only now can it be revealed that Samsudeen remained in New Zealand courtesy of his refugee status, granted in 2013.
However, Samsudeen’s claim to being a refugee was contested from the get-go, right through to his horrific attack this week.
Immigration NZ refused his initial application, but the Tamil Muslim was approved on appeal by the Immigration and Protection Tribunal after he argued fear of persecution on return to Sri Lanka.
When Samsudeen came to police attention in 2016 for expressing sympathy for terrorism on Facebook, Ms Ardern said investigations into the man showed his refugee application was “fraudulently obtained”.
“The process was started to cancel his refugee status, and with it, his right to stay in New Zealand,” she said.
However, efforts to strip his residency rights and deport him were stymied.
It was not until February 2019 that Immigration NZ cancelled Samsudeen’s refugee status – when he was already in prison facing criminal charges.
“For a number of reasons, the deportation appeal could not proceed until after the conclusion of the criminal trial in May 2021,” Ms Ardern said.
“Immigration New Zealand explored whether the Immigration Act might allow them to detain the individual while his deportation appeal was heard.
“It was incredibly disappointing and frustrating when legal advice came back to say this wasn’t an option.”
In July, Crown Law issued advice Samsudeen would qualify as a “protected person” under the Immigration Act, making his deportation legally difficult.
On that basis, Ms Ardern’s government reluctantly accepted his right to be in the community, and police began a highly-resourced surveillance operation.
Ms Ardern said she was concerned “the law could allow someone to remain here who obtained their immigration status fraudulently and posed a threat to our national security”.
“Immigration New Zealand from the beginning have sought to deport this individual, and were right to do so,” she said.