Associate Immigration Minister Damien O'Connor today defended his decision to deport a sexually abused Sri Lankan girl saying she will be "better off" in her own culture.
The 16-year-old and her grandmother were flown out of Auckland last night after strenuous efforts by the girl's lawyers, Carole Curtis and Phillipa Cunningham, to keep her here failed.
The removal came after Mr O'Connor told the Immigration Service that he was not changing his original decision not to intervene in the case.
Ms Curtis called the decision "disgraceful".
"I just think it's disgraceful and I'm ashamed of us as a country that we could do this to a child," the lawyer told National Radio.
"I'm ashamed of the minister and shocked that this would happen in this way to the little girl."
The girl fled Sri Lanka with her grandmother in 2002 to escape long-term sexual abuse by family members.
The pair entered New Zealand illegally and have been twice refused refugee status.
Ms Curtis said she could not understand why the minister had elected not to use his discretionary powers.
"This is why the minister has discretion, so that he or she can look at these cases which don't fit under the little heads of immigration or refugee status."
However, Mr O'Connor defended his decision again today, saying she was "better off in her own culture".
"We can't accept into this country everyone who claims to have been sexually abused or at threat of numerous circumstances as happens around the world every day," he told National Radio.
However, the decision had not been based on the "fear of setting a precedent", he insisted.
"It was based on assessment of that individual case."
A proper care and protection plan, such as was now in place in Sri Lanka, with support from community organisations, the Government and members of the girl's own family, would ensure her continuing safety, he said.
"There are only claims that one or two (family) members have not been kind to that girl," he said.
"She has been here without any other family members except a grandmother who's been helpful for the most part but not always."
The girl's distress had been caused largely by "the indecision and uncertainty about her future", he said.
"She was clearly disappointed when first told [of the decision to deport her] but she accepted the decision and I'm sure as she's a bright girl and will make the best of the situation that she's facing."
The New Zealand government would be "monitoring" the implementation of the care and protection plan in Sri Lanka, he said.
He was confident the Government had lived up to all its international obligations with regard to human rights in relation to the case, he said.
While the girl's lawyer said she was taken screaming from Auckland's Mangere Refugee Centre, Mr O'Connor said the reports he had received were that the girl was "not unduly distressed".
Ms Curtis said the minister's claims that the girl was not unduly distressed and that she accepted the situation were wrong.
"We're obviously talking about two different children -- maybe someone else was deported last night also.
"The child I saw physically man-handled into the ambulance, and screaming that we could hear right throughout the camp -- that was the acceptance that this child had, so she was terrified."
Meanwhile, the decision was widely condemned by several agencies.
The Commissioner for Children, Dr Cindy Kiro said she found the decision "incredibly difficult to comprehend".
"There's no disputing that she's in danger if she goes back...
"We are a civilised society and should be capable of exercising humanitarian judgement."
Ms Curtis said the girl was malnourished and seriously dehydrated after days of hiding under her bed and screaming at anyone who approached.
The girl's psychiatrists found that she was suffering post-traumatic stress disorder from sexual abuse and was suicidal.
A psychiatric report commissioned by the minister a week ago recommended that if she was to be deported, she should be seated "as far away from the cockpit and pilot as possible" and at least one her escorts should be a psychiatric crisis nurse or psychiatric doctor with training in "calming and restraint techniques and cardio-pulmonary resuscitation".
Herald Feature: Immigration
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