A man who injured himself running from the Christchurch mosque shooting has been denied a residence visa from the Minister of Immigration despite a recommendation from the Immigration and Protection Tribunal.
Sanaul Elahi, 29, said he was in the carpark of Masjid Al Noor in Deans Ave, Christchurch, when the gunman attacked on March 15, 2019.
Although he suffered memory loss from that day, he said witnesses saw him running away and falling in the car park which resulted in injuries to his left shoulder, arm and leg.
His name was not put on the police list of those present during the attack, but the IPT ruled that there were special circumstances for Elahi and his family to warrant a ministerial consideration as an exception to residence instructions.
After spending more than $24,000 on immigration advisers and lawyers to get this far, Elahi was devastated when he was told last week that Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi had decided to decline granting him and his family resident class visas.
"My heart sank and suddenly I don't know what to do. All my other Muslim brothers who were at the mosque attack have already got their residence except me, I cannot understand why they are doing this to me and my family," Elahi said.
Faafoi has been approached for comments.
Elahi currently holds a temporary open work visa that was granted to Christchurch mosque victims which expires on March 21, 2021.
His first application for residency in July 2019 was declined because only official attack victims qualified for residency.
As he suffered from memory lapses, Elahi said police had wrongly stated that he was standing across the road from the mosque at the time of the shooting.
"Witnesses saw me in the car park outside the mosque, I fell and injured myself at the car park and I should have been classified as an official victim," Elahi said.
He spent about $24,000 in legal and immigration fees to prove this, and took his case to the IPT. Now Elahi says he has no money left.
The IPT found that Elahi and his family's circumstances were special and psychological evidence showed the mosque attacks have had a significant impact on him.
"Having been adversely affected by this unprecedented (in NZ) act of terror means that his circumstances are special in the sense of being 'out of the ordinary'," the IPT decision said.
"The appellant and his family need the certainty if residence to facilitate the appellant's recovery and to ensure they can make plans for the future."
The tribunal recommended to the minister that he consider granting them residence status as an exception to instructions.
Elahi moved from Bangladesh in 2015, first on a student visa, and worked as a halal slaughterman in Christchurch for two years.
He and his wife Badhon Akter, 26, have a son, Safin, 2, and a month-old daughter Sarah, both born in New Zealand.
"I worry about the future of my children every day, they will not be able to have a good life if we are sent back to Bangladesh," Elahi said.
Elahi, who now works as a security guard, said he had depleted his savings fighting for a visa and was now out of money.
Without residency, he said it was difficult to get a proper job and he could no longer return to his previous job processing animals because the sight of blood triggers memories of the shooting.
"I am still going through trauma, I have nightmares, flashbacks and I struggle to sleep every night," Elahi said.
"Now I also have to worry about the uncertainty my family will have to face."
An INZ spokeswoman said Elahi was still "able to apply for whichever visa he thinks best fits his circumstances and any application will be assessed against the relevant requirements".
Immigration adviser Tuariki Delamere said INZ were correct in declining Elahi's initial request for residence as he did not meet the specific criteria for mosque attack residence visa.
Delamere said he believed Faafoi made a political decision to reject IPT's recommendation.
"When making a decision like this, a minister has to look at the wider picture," said Delamere, a former immigration minister.
"In this case, if the minister granted residence then he would have opened a whole new can of worms in terms of a precedent and therefore, if I was still Minister, I would probably have made the same decision."