U.S. Court of Appeals Grants Fiji Family Political Asylum

By Sarah E. Treptow
Impunity Watch Reporter, Oceania

SAN FRANCISCO, United States – A U.S. federal appeals court has ruled that a California man and his family who fled Fiji in 1998 in response to racially motivated beatings and death threats are eligible for political asylum.  The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco reversed rulings by immigration courts against Rajeshwar Singh, his wife, Mohini Lata Singh, and their two children.

Mr. Singh’s father was killed by native Fijians in 1987 and the Singhs were under pressure to vacate their leased land so natives could move in according to their lawyer, Ashwani Bakhri.  Mr. Singh, a cabdriver in Fiji, was locked in the trunk of his taxi in 1996 by passengers who rolled the vehicle into a ditch, seriously injuring him.  His wife and young children were also attacked.  The Singhs, of Indian descent, said the violence against them was by Fiji’s native majority, who control the government.

The federal immigration board ruled that the family had not been persecuted which made them ineligible for asylum because they could not show that the police were unable or unwilling to protect them.  In a 3-0 ruling the appeals court said Singh had complained to police about the violence and had received no response.

The court ruled, “We have previously recognized the indifference of authorities to violence against Indo-Fijians during the period at issue in this case.”  The judges said the Singhs had been persecuted because of their ethnicity and probably would be persecuted again if they were deported back to Fiji.

For more information, please see:

San Francisco Chronicle – Fiji fear leads to asylum win for local family – 23 February 2009

Fiji Times – Fiji family qualifies for political asylum, US court rules – 24 February 2009

Author: Impunity Watch Archive