The Refugee Status Appeals Authority must reconsider its decision to deny refugee status for a Sri Lankan man who has been linked to Tamil Tiger separatists, the Court of Appeal has ruled.

The court also dismissed an appeal brought by the Crown in relation to the man's wife.

The man had worked on board a boat in the early 1990s which transported arms and explosives for the Tamil Tigers. He claimed that he did not know that the boat belonged to the Tamil Tigers or the contents of the cargo.

There was no evidence that the man had been involved in Tamil Tiger activity before joining the boat, the court said.

The man and his wife applied for refugee status in New Zealand, claiming that they would be at risk of being harmed either by the Sri Lankan authorities or the Tamil Tigers if they returned to Sri Lanka.

The Refugee Status Appeals Authority and the High Court found the man was excluded from refugee protection. This was because there were serious reasons for considering he had been complicit in crimes against humanity committed by the Tamil Tigers.

The authority also found that the man's wife was not a refugee because she had no well-founded fear of persecution if she returned to Sri Lanka. The Court of Appeal unanimously held that there were no serious reasons for considering that the man was complicit in crimes against humanity, when the proper approach to complicity was applied.

The Appeal Court also considered that there were no serious reasons for considering that the man had committed serious non-political crimes.

It said the refugee status claims of the man and his wife were to be considered again by the authority.

- NZPA