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Opinion - The Shier Family Revisted

Remember the Schier family who were deported to Germany last year because the father, Gunther, failed to declare a previous marijuana conviction when he arrived in New Zealand? Young daughter, Bianca, had a birthday and Christmas wish - to come back to New Zealand. John Howard writes.

In a pre-Christmas letter to friends and supporters, including myself, mother Petra Schier, says "Bianca's birthday is in two days and when asked what she was wishing for she said, I want to go back to New Zealand and if that wish can't come true, then it has to be my Christmas wish."

The Schier family, including the three New Zealand-born children, were deported last year by Immigration Minister, Tuariki Delamere.

Mr Schier had arrived in New Zealand some years previously and failed to disclose a previous marijuana conviction on his immigration forms. He maintains that he did not fully understand English at the time and he didn't fill-out the occupation section of the form either because he didn't understand that word.

The German authorities have since expunged his conviction from the records.

Nevertheless, following protracted court cases, which ultimately led to the Court of Appeal, the Immigration Minister deported them last year.

In the Court of Appeal the Immigration Service had argued, which was not challenged and was accepted by the Court: - "The children remain citizens of New Zealand. They retain all the rights given to them by New Zealand statutes."

Not true.

There are laws still on our statute books, albeit ancient one's, which say, " Item, that no man of what estate or condition that he be shall be put out of land or tenement......without being brought in answer by due process of law."

The children were put out of their New Zealand home and were never "brought in answer by due process of law."

Then there is Magna Carta, also law in New Zealand, which says, " No freeman shall be..... exiled......but by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land."

Effectively, the children were exiled and the Immigration Service paid for their fares back to Germany into exile.

Despite being made aware of the new evidence before the family was deported, Tuariki Delamere was not interested, closed the matter and was not prepared to enter into any further correspondence.

The Rt Hon Chief Justice, Sian Elias, being also made aware of the full facts, wrote in a letter to me dated 21 July 1999 - " The arguments you raise might perhaps be available on an application for re-hearing."

Great, an opportunity to redress what appears to be a gross miscarriage of justice against the Schier children and their parents.

But they have no money to appeal and although they want to return it is not realistically possible.

>From Petra's letter Mr Schier is apparently working 17 hours a day, travels an hour each way to his job, they live in an apartment with second-hand furniture and two of the three children are having difficulty making friends and adjusting to an unfamiliar country and language.

Mrs Schier writes, " The children hadn't seen their dad in three months, but now lived in a strange place where they couldn't communicate (or were afraid of speaking in case of failing to say the right thing) and without friends and familiar faces."

" Normally Bianca would be in year 3 at school but she would never have coped so I put her in year 2. Therefore, she is an alien in her class. Plus all the other children have known each other from the previous year and so Bianca has a hard time to find a friend. She is shy and has problems to express herself. (kids are cruel to each other) Marina has now made a friend but we did have some problems at first with crying because she did not understand the instructions," Mrs Schier wrote.

The letter is not meant to be a sob-story because there are positives in it as well.

It is, however, a cry for justice.

Contrast this case with the treatment by our court system of the American billionaire who actually imported drugs into this country.

Blackstone said, "It is better that ten guilty persons escape than one innocent suffer."


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