Exit threat hits family

By Kirsty Wynn

Fernando sisters Ruwani (left), 8, Nipuni, 16, and Sachini, 13. Photo / Michael Craig
Fernando sisters Ruwani (left), 8, Nipuni, 16, and Sachini, 13. Photo / Michael Craig

Three Sri Lankan sisters face deportation after seven years building lives in New Zealand.

Nipuni Fernando, 16, and sisters Sachini, 13, and Ruwani, 8, have been told they will have to leave the country after a visa application by their father Geegam Fernando was declined.

The family had applied for permanent residency but that was also rejected because Geegam had a previous kidney problem and a cyst on the brain. Recent scans and medical examinations had given him a clean bill of health.

"There is nothing for us in Sri Lanka. This is our home, it is all we know," Nipuni Fernando said. "We don't understand how he was given visas in the past and not now."

The Pakuranga College student said neither she nor her sisters had a future in Sri Lanka and didn't speak the language.

They had approached local MP Maurice Williamson and Associate Immigration Minister Nikki Kaye but were told there were no options left.

Since coming to New Zealand in 2006 to work as a boatbuilder, Geegam, his wife Fatima and his daughters have embraced local life and say they identify more with New Zealand. Nipuni wants to study business at Auckland University, Sachini wants to be a teacher and Ruwani a police officer.

"If we go back to Sri Lanka, all of that will be destroyed," Nipuni said.

Kaye said she had not looked at the case because there had been a ministerial appeal and it had been declined within the past 12 months, but the family could resubmit a request for intervention.

- Herald on Sunday

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