Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway says the possibility of sending Karel Sroubek to his death weighed heavily on his initial decision not to deport him to the Czech Republic.
"If I sent someone to their death, that would weigh very heavily on me," he told Newstalk ZB this morning.
Yesterday, Lees-Galloway reversed his initial decision on Sroubek's fate and Sroubek was now liable to be deported after his drug-smuggling sentence is complete.
This means he would be unable to return to New Zealand.
He said he was reinstating Sroubek's deportation liability because his previous convictions in the Czech Republic made him an excluded person under the Immigration Act.
"Sroubek is wanted by Czech authorities for service of 54 months' imprisonment," the case file provided to Lees-Galloway says, for attacking two police officers and a taxi driver, and for 2002 convictions for "disorderly conduct, damaging of another's property and attacking a law enforcement officer".
An excluded person is someone convicted and sentenced to jail for at least 12 months in the 10 years before arriving in New Zealand. Sroubek came to New Zealand in 2003.
Immigration NZ did not know about the convictions because Sroubek came to New Zealand under a different name.
Lees-Galloway told Newstalk ZB when he was looking at Sroubek's case file for the first time, he should have asked more questions.
"I accept that I could have asked more questions when I was making that decision – [I] totally accept that, [I] take total responsibility for it. But I made a decision based on the information that I had."
One of the major issues for Lees-Galloway when assessing the situation initially was what would happen to Sroubek if he was deported.
"We are not a country that sends people to their death.
"We're a country that believes that people shouldn't be sent to a situation where their personal safety is at risk."
Lees-Galloway said he needed to balance the safety of Sroubek, with the safety of the New Zealand public.
"Whatever they have done, we are not a country that just sends people off into a situation where their personal safety is going to be at risk.
"What I was doing was weighing his safety against public safety – on the balance of the information that I had, I made the determination that I did."
But when he got the "full picture" he made a different decision.
When assessing the information for the first time, Lees-Galloway put a lot of emphasis on Judge Roy Wade's assessment of Sroubek's case, in which he said Sroubek would be in danger if he was deported.
Sroubek's original case file included that he had travelled in and out of New Zealand, but not where he had travelled to.
Evidence that Sroubek returned to the Czech Republic, though in public court documents, was not in the original case file.
Sroubek's lawyer Paul Wick, QC, confirmed he will appeal the decision.
Asked if he would resign if Sroubek's appeal was successful, Lees-Galloway said: "I don't want to run away from this; quitting is running away from this issue.
"I want to face up to it, I want to sort it out, and I want to make sure that all of these decisions are made correctly every single time – that responsibility is on me and I'm fronting up to that responsibility."