By Gill Bonnett of RNZ
A couple who faced deportation asked Oranga Tamariki about finding adoptive parents for their daughters so the pre-schoolers could stay in New Zealand.
The 31-year-old man was told he would be sent back to India after being convicted of conning people out of thousands of dollars.
He appealed to the Immigration and Protection Tribunal, which said the family's exceptional humanitarian circumstances would make it unduly harsh to deport him.
It ruled that even if he and his wife did not adopt out their two New Zealand-citizen children, aged 3 and 18 months, and instead returned to India as a family, they would face poverty and ill-health there.
The tribunal suspended his deportation for three years, which means he can stay if he commits no further offences in that time.
The tribunal summarised his offending: "The appellant and his two associates set up a company in July 2015 and placed online advertisements for the position of service technician in September 2015. Over the following weeks, they interviewed a number of individuals for the advertised position. Applicants were then advised that they had succeeded in gaining the position but would get the job only if they paid some several thousand dollars.
"The requested sums were paid but when the successful applicants sought to take up their employment, they found that the company's premises had been vacated. Further, in early November 2015, the appellant arranged to hire camera equipment, valued at $95,000. He collected the equipment but did not return it."
He has completed six months' community detention and owes $15,000 of court-ordered reparation of $21,375 to his victims. He told the tribunal some of the money he had taken was sent to his parents to pay for building work on their home.
The man had a residence visa but faced deportation because of his offending, and his wife's visitor visa was expiring imminently when the tribunal made its decision in December. They said they had looked into adopting their daughters to a family in New Zealand if his appeal failed.
"[He] and his wife are so concerned about their daughters' prospects in India that they have contacted Oranga Tamariki to set about making arrangements for adoption in New Zealand. They have met with a social worker. The couple know that it would be difficult on all of them, to be separated, but their daughters would be better off with an Indian family in New Zealand than with them in India."
The mother said that when she weighed up losing her children against their safety, and her own childhood experiences, she would rather leave them in New Zealand.
"She does not know how she would survive without her children but she knows for a fact that she will not be able to give them the life that they can have in New Zealand."
A psychologist had consulted his colleagues and found the proposal to be 'quite extraordinary'.
"While there were many uncertainties, it was noted that the appellant and his wife were actively working towards an adoption, not simply contemplating it."
Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi opposed the deportation appeal, with counsel pointing to premeditated offending by the man and his co-defendants, obtaining $59,200 by deception from multiple victims. It was the couple's choice whether they took their children with them, said MBIE's lawyer.
The tribunal said it could not predict whether the couple would follow through on the plan to adopt the girls.
"Certainly, it is difficult to understand how their permanent separation from their parents could be seen to be in the girls' best interests," it said.
"However, the prospect of the separation of the appellant and his wife from their two daughters in the present case is by no means certain. It could be that they cannot arrange a suitable adoption within New Zealand.
"It is also, in the tribunal's view, unlikely that the couple would be able to convince the relevant authorities that this would be in the children's best interests or that they, in fact, leave their children behind in this country. From the tribunal's assessment, the appellant and his wife are otherwise responsible, caring and loving parents, and they present as unlikely to simply abandon their two young daughters."
But it said the girls' best interests were to remain in New Zealand with their parents, as it predicted little family support in India, where the father had been disowned by his parents. It was also concerned about his elder daughter, who had asthma, and about the couple's mental health, as they had suicidal thoughts and symptoms of depression.