An illegal immigrant will now likely be deported after several failed attempts to gain refugee status in New Zealand, despite a fear of religious and political persecution by the authoritarian Turkish government.

The Court of Appeal this week denied Kerem Yuksel, a Turkish national, the opportunity to bring further evidence to his fourth claim for refugee status.

Previously working as a waiter in Auckland, Yuksel waived his right to confidentiality under the Immigration Act with the Herald this year when he publicly threatened to go on a hunger strike.

He has made three prior claims for refugee status, all denied by a refugee and protection officer (RPO), while his fourth failed attempt was also found to be "manifestly unfounded and clearly abusive" of the process.


Yuksel sought a judicial review of the fourth decision, but it was dismissed in March by a High Court judge.

This week, the Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal of Justice Peter Woodhouse's decision.

Yuksel, who had converted to Christianity in 2001, now faces imminent deportation.

The Herald has approached Yuksel, who arrived in New Zealand in April 2011 on a student visa, for comment on the Court of Appeal's decision.

However, he earlier told the Herald he was "desperate" to stay in Aotearoa.

"If I go back to Turkey, I will be subjected to unimaginable punishment and my life is in danger," he said.

"Whoever is anti-president [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan, anti-Islamist or thinks differently about Kurdish and Armenian problems, if they express themselves on social media, they are going to be arrested."

Yuksel lodged his first refugee claim in January 2012.

He said he would be killed or seriously harmed by his Muslim relatives and persecuted by ultra-nationalists and state agents if he returned to Turkey.

The RPO did accept that Yuksel faced pressure from his family, experienced harassment when in the Turkish army, and possible discrimination from police following his conversion to Christianity, but the risk of harm was considered to be "speculative or remote".

On a second claim, Yuksel said he posted comments on Facebook and Twitter criticising Turkish nationalism and the Turkish government and that his mother said he was wanted by Turkish police.

A third attempt in April 2016 was based on Yuksel's fear of returning to Turkey because of his sexuality, his political opinions and his opposition to the Turkish government.

He said the risk of harm had increased following the attempted coup in Turkey, and claimed he held firm pro-communist or anarchist political views and would engage with leftist and pro-Kurdish political parties if he returned.

The tribunal reviewed material relating to restrictions of freedom of expression in Turkey since the July 2016 coup attempt.

Since then, more than 10,000 Turks had been investigated in respect of their social media use, of whom 1656 had been arrested, the tribunal found.

All of Yuksel's appeals to the Immigration and Protection Tribunal and further refugee claims, including evidence that he wanted to be a Christian pastor, proved unsuccessful.

A month after the third claim was declined in February 2017, he was issued with a deportation notice.

His fourth claim was made based on his online activities, while allegations were made that an interpreter had been gossiping about his case to Turkish refugees in New Zealand.

However, the RPO was again satisfied the claim was unfounded and considered it a tactic to forestall his deportation.

Justice Woodhouse agreed, and ruled there was no basis to find the refusal unreasonable.

When reviewing Justice Woodhouse's decision, the Court of Appeal did not consider the new information Yuksel wanted to introduce established any significant change in circumstances.

"[Yuksel's] claim is based upon the perceived risk he faces should he return to Turkey arising from the inflammatory views he has expressed online. However, the new evidence does not address that question," the court said in its Tuesday judgment.

"The material is focused on the risk to those promoting legitimate discourse such as journalists or human rights activists.

"Any change of circumstances that may be able to be taken from this new country information impacts upon journalists and other persons seeking to factually report events and engage in constructive political discourse, rather than those who are primarily involved in expressing derogatory speech using social media."