Refugee and protection Law

This drawing from Cuba in the city of Trinidad 2014 from an artist whose name is hard to decipher it is a strong visual representation of Refugee and Protection law and what our clients feel and experience.

We have specialised in Refugee for many years and have enabled Refugee claimants to settle in this country and often been able to help them bring their families here.



1. 1. A refugee is someone who has a genuine fear of persecution for one of five reasons. The reasons are because of their:

  • Race (ethnic identification)
  • Political views
  • Religious belief
  • Nationality
  • Social group

2. The social group can include quite often women at risk of domestic violence without protection, people who are gay or lesbian and other people who at a particular time are in a particular social group where they are suffering persecution because of that social group.


3. Our lawyers have been trained in identification and application of the Istanbul Protocol and have acted for very many people who have suffered torture and harm because of one of the five Convention reasons.


4. It is also possible to be a protected person and that means that the claimant faces risk of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or torture under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.


5. This is one of the most sensitive areas of law that this firm specialises in. We have practised in this area of law for almost 20 years.


6. An asylum seeker or refugee claimant comes to New Zealand and makes a claim for refugee status, either at the airport or in the community.


7. Once that claim has been made then a confirmation of claim form must be completed and also a statement must be completed. All of this has to be in English.


8. The claim is heard at the Refugee Status Unit with a Refugee and Protection Officer. The hearing can take all day.


9. Their details are at:


10. We arrange for interpreters to assist the claimant/s throughout this process so that the claimant/s understand what is happening and feels safe when they prepare and submit their refugee claim.


11. Usually claimants receive legal aid because they tend to come to New Zealand with no funding whatsoever and then they are bewildered and upset struggling with English as a second language and not understanding fully how to prepare a claim and a statement.


12. The Legal Services Agency pays the lawyer and for the interpreting if a client is granted legal aid.


13. It is the Confirmation of Claim and statement that begins the refugee claim depends upon so it is very important to have it prepared as well as possible.


14. There is then a hearing for the refugee claimant and this hearing can take a whole day.


15. The hearing is at the Refugee Status Unit and it is an oral hearing with questions that can take a whole day or less depending on what the claim is about. The RSB arranges the interpreter


16. What a claimant says to the lawyer and to the Refugee Status Unit is confidential and private


17. After the hearing there is a period of time in which the Officer prepares an interview report which is sent to the lawyer.


18. We then meet with the claimant/s and go thorough the questions and answers that may have been asked and then the response is sent to the Refugee Status Unit. After that a decision is made


19. If it is an approval decision-the claimant is recognised as a Refugee and Protected Person and that person can then seek residence and later become a New Zealand citizen.


20. Residence is not possible on legal aid but if the claimant wants to instruct our lawyers, we reduce our fees


21. If it is a decline decision then there is an Appeal to the Immigration and Protection Tribunal and we help with those Appeals as well.


22. There are two types of Appeals at this stage-the first is the Refugee and Protection Appeal which might also be legally aided.


23. The other Appeal is a Humanitarian Appeal which is filed at the same time-but there is no legal aid available for this Appeal


24. The Appeal process is very similar to that at the Refugee Status Unit with an oral hearing as well.


25. There is a statement from the Appellant to be provided, legal submissions made by the lawyer and then a hearing date.


26. A decision is made weeks later and the Appellant is either a Refugee or a Protected Person-or they are declined.


27. If they are declined Refugee and Protected Person`s Status-then the Humanitarian Appeal is heard on the papers. If exceptional circumstances of a Humanitarian nature are found, and it would be unjust or unduly harsh to deport the person, and it would not be against the public interest, the Appellant can be granted residence by the Tribunal itself. The humanitarian appeal should be addressed separately and explain that it is available only to clients who have visas and also stress the fact that refugee appellants must file all appeals available to them at the same time.


28. The Immigration and Protection Tribunal does publish some decisions which it is careful to make anonymous and these can be found at this site:


29. This firm specialises in this sensitive area of law. Most of our clients become eligible for legal aid because they have either no income or a very low income and no assets in New Zealand and simply could not pay for their legal fees to advance their claims.


30. This area of law requires considerable patience and understanding with claimants who have suffered very real trauma and need time to be able to trust the person that they meet who will be doing everything they can to help them.


31. At this law firm we have two specialists in this area of law:

  • Carole Curtis
  • Trevor Zohs