Fiji Indian Wins Asylum Claim On Dubious Grounds

“Jannif Ali came to the Bay Area on a visa with his family in 1989 and applied for political asylum, saying soldiers in his native Fiji had beaten him and dynamited his house. Immigration officials took 14 years to schedule an interview with Ali and then ordered him deported, saying State Department reports showed that conditions in Fiji had improved. But a federal appeals court said Friday that immigration judges hadn’t considered evidence of Fiji’s treatment of minorities since the latest military coup, in 2006, and had looked only at general conditions in the island nation – not the situation of someone like Ali who had been persecuted under a previous military regime.”

- S.F. Chronicle, Mar. 18, 2011.

The case is Ali v. Holder and decided by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Any lawyer who can win an asylum claim for a random Indo-Fijian deserves an award. There’s a drastic world of difference between the Rabuka-led  military coup of 1987 and the Bainimarama-led military coup of 2006. I doubt anyone can even make a claim that Indians in Fiji were collectively better off under Sitiveni Rabuka than they are under Commodore Bainimarama. My Dad was thrown in jail in 1987 just because he was Indian. Today, I could probably hold down a cabinet portfolio in the military government. But the Ninth Circuit does not seem to care about general trends and conditions in the country, which is a sign of progress.

Honestly, Ali should have been granted asylum in the early 90s. It is deplorable that USCIS chose to wait fourteen years before denying his claim. But he certainly does not have much grounds for a well-founded fear of the 2006 regime.

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Posted on by Prerna in Fiji Coup Coverage, Immigration