A woman who fulfilled her dead mother's wish of finding a husband fears she might lose everything to her now ex-spouse.

The Auckland homeowner found love online with a man in Syria who she thought would be a suitable partner.

"My mother's only wish was for me to get married, I'm from a Middle Eastern background and people care about that," said the woman, who Te Waha Nui has chosen not to identify.

She moved to Syria and married him but after a few months of living together, which she described as "hell", she left him and came home.


In 2014, during the Syrian crisis, her ex-spouse reached out to her, pleading she sponsor him to come to New Zealand.

The woman agreed and allowed him to live with her for two weeks, during which time she says he was physically abusive and controlling.

After receiving a protection order against him and attempting to withdraw her immigration sponsorship, she thought they could move on with their separate lives.

But the man continued to live near her, and has been granted refugee status.

The situation became worse when the protection order did little to prevent her from being harassed and stalked by him regularly, the woman said.

Women's Refuge New Zealand said abusers control their victims through coercion and fear, in order to get their own way.

Out of the blue, the woman received a "devastating" letter, informing her her ex would be going for half of everything she owns.

The woman learned that because he stayed in her home for two weeks, he is legally considered to have lived in the marital home.


"I pleaded with the Refugee Council of New Zealand, my local MP and the Immigration Minister to not let this man stay in New Zealand and I got no answers," said the woman.

According to Immigration New Zealand, sponsors cannot withdraw their sponsorship even if the sponsored person stays in New Zealand unlawfully after their visa expires.

The woman hopes her story will prevent other women from entering similar situations.

Where to get help:
If it is an emergency and you or someone you know is at risk, call 111.
Women's Refuge: 0800 733 843
Victim Support: 0800 842 846
Lifeline: (09) 522 2999
Family Violence Info Line: 0800 456 450

- Te Waha Nui