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Loghman Sawari was deported from Fiji to Papua New Guinea today after entering Fiji on a Papua New Guinean passport.

He is claiming to be a refugee but did not present himself as a refugee seeking asylum to immigration officials on arrival in Fiji. Nor, after ten days, did he lodge an application for asylum, personally or through his lawyer.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has advised Fiji that Sawari is not recognised as a refugee under the UNHCR mandate. It has further advised that he is a refugee recognised by Papua New Guinea under its national procedures. So Fiji has merely returned Sawari to his rightful place of residence.

Sawari eluded the authorities during his ten days in Fiji while posting photographs of himself on social media at various locations.

Under international law, anyone who is seeking political asylum is required to lodge an application without delay. In the case of Sawari, this did not happen. And his lawyer - who has been publicly advocating his position through the media - failed to facilitate a prompt application as required under international conventions pertaining to applications for refugee status.

The authorities in Fiji have been informed by their Papua New Guinean counterparts that Sawari’s Papua New Guinea passport was obtained by fraudulent means.

On this basis, Sawari was also in breach of Fijian law which states that “a person who knowingly misleads or attempts to mislead any immigration officer in relation to any matter material to the performance or exercise by any immigration officer of any duty, function, power or discretion...commits an offence.”

The Government notes that Sawari is claiming that he feared for his life. This begs the question as to why for ten days he failed to file an application for asylum. Despite several attempts by the Immigration Department to engage with Sawari, these attempts were ignored.

Fiji remains fully committed to the Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, but we cannot tolerate a situation in which a person who is not an asylum seeker and who has already been granted refugee status in another country flagrantly violates the law.

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