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Stranded Kun flees Nauru

Wednesday 13 July 2016 | Published in Regional

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Former MP slips through border with New Zealand passport

NAURU – After spending 12 months stranded in Nauru, former opposition MP Roland Kun has been able to flee the country for New Zealand, where he has been granted citizenship, his lawyer says.

Kun was one of five opposition MPs who were unlawfully suspended from Parliament in 2014, and his Nauruan passport was subsequently confiscated, effectively stranding him on the island, estranged from his wife and three children who live in New Zealand.

Kun did not run for re-election in Saturday’s poll.

His lawyer, Claudia Geiringer, said his New Zealand passport was issued just twelve days ago and sent to Nauru.

She said there were fears the Nauru government would attempt to arrest Kun before he boarded the flight to New Zealand.

“Roland just presented himself at the airport. It was the day after the election and everybody was hungover,” she said.

“He waited until the very last minute, slipped through customs, got on the plane and he tells me that he thinks that at the point of departure the Nauru government did not know that he was on the plane.”

Kun’s Nauruan passport was cancelled amid accusations he had taken part in protests outside parliament – which he denies – and he had been unable to leave the country for the past year.

Geiringer said that an application for citizenship had been filed in December under the legal pretext of “exceptional circumstances of a humanitarian or other nature”.

She said the case that they made for Kun centred around the fact that he was the primary caregiver for his three young children.

“It really was a humanitarian tragedy that this man was being forced to stay in Nauru and couldn’t be reunited with his family and that was at the core of our case,” she said.

No charge has ever been laid against Kun in connection with the cancellation of his passport, but the Nauru government has steadfastly refused to issue him a new one.

The former MP was reportedly granted New Zealand citizenship about two weeks ago, Geiringer said: “Since then its all been happening very fast. We managed to get a passport into Nauru”.

On the heels of Saturday’s election fervour, Kun discreetly boarded a last-minute, outgoing flight to Brisbane on Sunday before continuing on to New Zealand.

“I’m so proud to be returning to my adopted country as a real Kiwi,” Kun said in the statement released by his lawyer.

“After spending 12 months stranded in Nauru because of the actions of the government I just can’t believe I’m finally going to see my beautiful family again.

“I’m extremely grateful for the assistance of my legal team and grateful for the consideration of Minister of Internal Affairs Peter Dunne and the New Zealand government on the matter of citizenship and the issuing of a passport,” he said.

Kun has requested not to be contacted for comment until Wednesday.

Geiringer told the ABC she understood the Nauruan Government had become aware Kun had fled, but could not comment on whether or not the move would affect New Zealand-Nauru relations.

Ties between the two nations have been strained since New Zealand suspended aid to Nauru’s justice sector last year, citing a diminishing rule of law.

- PNC sources