An immigrant's final effort to gain refugee status in New Zealand out of fear for religious and political persecution from the Turkish government has been denied by the Supreme Court.

Kerem Yuksel, a Turkish national, made four claims for refugee status on the basis he would be killed or seriously harmed by his Muslim relatives and persecuted by ultra-nationalists and state agents if he returned to his home country.

In July, the Court of Appeal dismissed his appeal of a High Court decision declining a judicial review and today the Supreme Court refused a final challenge to the country's highest court.

Yuksel has since left New Zealand.


"Nothing raised by Mr [Yuksel] suggests that the result would have been different even under the legal tests he advocates," the Supreme Court Justices, Sir William Young, Dame Susan Glazebrook and Sir Mark O'Regan, ruled.

"In any event, as the Crown submits, the appeal is moot because Mr [Yuksel] has left New Zealand. It is thus not in the interests of justice to hear the proposed appeal."

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

His claims for refugee status were all denied by a refugee and protection officer (RPO), while his fourth attempt was found to be "manifestly unfounded and clearly abusive" of the process.

The Supreme Court said the appeal was
The Supreme Court said the appeal was "not in the interests of justice to hear". Photo / File

Yuksel converted to Christianity in 2001 and arrived in New Zealand in April 2011 on a student visa.

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

"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 accepted 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 the Turkish government and said his mother told him he was wanted by Turkish police.

Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Photo / AP
Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Photo / AP

A third attempt 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.

The Immigration and Protection 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.

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

Yuksel's fourth claim was about 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 considered the claim to be a tactic to forestall his deportation.