Indian Fijian Gets Refugee Status


Indian Fijians have difficulty getting refugee status but a recent decision of the RRT was an exception.

In 071823443  [2008] RRTA 53 (11.3.08)  the RRT found a political activist of Indian origin was a refugee:

The applicant claims that he fears persecution by indigenous Fijian nationalists because of his political opinion and membership of a particular social group. In particular, he fears persecution because he has supported politically the FLP and the plight of Indo-Fijians more generally and because many native Fijians have a particular hatred for other native (and part native) Fijians who actively support Indo-Fijians: such people are seen as traitors to the native Fijian cause.

In support of his claims, the applicant has cited a number of incidents that occurred in the 2 years prior to his departure from Fiji in which he was physically assaulted and abused by native Fijians who were opposed to his links with, and efforts on behalf of, Indo-Fijians. The Tribunal has considered the oral and written evidence and accepts that the applicant has been seriously assaulted by native Fijians on the cited occasions and for the reasons claimed by the applicant.

A central issue is whether the applicant has a well-founded fear of persecution should he return to Fiji in the reasonably foreseeable future. Country information indicates, and the applicant agrees, that the current interim government headed by Commodore Frank Bainimarama is sympathetic to the plight of Indo-Fijians. It follows that, for the period that the Bainimarama government remains in power, the applicant would face a reduced risk of harm by indigenous Fijian nationalists and enjoy a higher level of State protection if he were to return. However country information also indicates that the political situation in Fiji is highly fluid and the likelihood of Bainimarama remaining in power, even in the period leading up to the election Bainimarama has promised in 2009, is by no means certain. Were Bainimarama to be ousted, either by coup or in the election, the applicant’s risk of serious harm by indigenous Fijian nationalists is likely to increase and the level of state protection from such harm afforded to him is likely to decrease. This is particularly the case if, as would seem likely given the nature and extent of the forces opposing Bainimarama, a change of government leads to a significant rise in the influence of nationalist indigenous Fijians and a concomitant diminution in the influence and equitable treatment of the Indo-Fijian community. The Tribunal also accepts that native Fijians such as the applicant who are seen to be sympathetic to, and actively supportive of, the Indo-Fijian community would face a heightened risk of persecution should there be such a change of government.

If anything more recent events in Fiji have made the political situation worse for Indian origin Fijians. On 11.12.08 the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Stephen Smith MP said the following in Press Statement(131/08):

Forum Ministerial Contact Group
Second Visit To Fiji

The Pacific Islands Forum Ministerial Contact Group made its second visit to Fiji this week. Ministers said their discussions with the Interim Prime Minister and other key stakeholders had been frank and informative.
Ministers expressed disappointment that the Fiji Interim Government had confirmed that it did not intend to hold elections by March 2009, in line with its previous commitments to Forum Leaders.

The Travel Advice for Fiji (dated 17.12.08) from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade states:



  • We advise you to exercise caution in Fiji due to the unresolved political situation and deterioration in the rule of law following the December 2006 military coup.
  • Pay close attention to your personal security and monitor the media for information about possible new safety or security risks.
  • We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Suva due to the unresolved political situation in Fiji. Any adverse political event in Fiji could lead without warning to an outbreak of violence and civil unrest, in particular in and around Suva.
  • You should avoid demonstrations, street rallies and public gatherings as such events could result in civil disorder.
  • You should avoid military installations, military activity and concentrations of military personnel around Suva.
  • Actions taken by the military and other government organisations since the coup have undermined the protections ordinarily afforded by the rule of law and have affected the interests and welfare of Australians in some instances.
  • There have been reports of increases in violent crime. Expatriates and tourists have been targeted, particularly in Suva. You should maintain a high degree of personal security awareness.
  • Credible threats have been made against the Australian High Commission and its staff in Suva.
  • The Australian Government has authorised the voluntary departure of the dependants of Australia-based staff in the Australian High Commission in Suva, if they wish to leave.


Hence under any objective analysis it is unlikely that the Fiji government will have the political will nor the ability to assist Indian origin Fijians from asserting their rights.

Barbara Davidson