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New Zealand
New Zealand

December 8, 2010

German Family to Apply for Political Asylum

In 2008, Gerno and Andrea Schöneich, along with their four children, fled their native country of Germany to New Zealand where they hoped they would be free to live and educate their children in peace. As German homeschool parents, they faced threats from authorities, hefty fines, and even jail time. German authorities continue to show such extreme prejudice toward homeschoolers that families continue to leave their homeland rather than give up homeschooling.

Unable to obtain work permits in New Zealand, and unable to return to Germany because of the very real fear that their younger children could be removed from their custody, the Schöneichs decided to apply for political asylum in New Zealand. In mid-November the family received invitations to present their claim for refugee status before New Zealand officials. The family is representing themselves in the arduous asylum process.

“Free, Liberal, Democratic Country”

Over three long days, immigration officers interviewed or, as the Schöneichs felt, “interrogated” them. These refugee officials were skeptical and did not seem to view homeschooling favorably. They even expressed doubt about documented instances of persecution of homeschoolers.

According to Mr. Schöneich, “One officer stated that Germany is a free, liberal, democratic county and [persecution of homeschoolers] would obviously not happen. Further, he did not believe that it actually happens in Germany.” The officers cited previous cases on homeschooling from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), including the infamous Konrad decision where the court dismissed the case of homeschoolers who were fined for not sending their children to school. Schöneich told HSLDA that that the New Zealand immigration officers showed “no understanding or sympathy” for his family’s plight. It was only the extensive evidence from the German Romeike family’s political asylum victory in the United States that seemed to keep the officials interested.

“Whatever the Consequences”

In three weeks the immigration officer will compile his reports and send them to the family. Due to the Christmas holidays and New Zealand’s summer recess, the Schöneichs expect to wait until mid-January until their asylum application is processed in full. If the government declines to grant the family refugee status, they will have to appeal the decision. The family is thankful for one positive outcome from the meetings. After months of waiting, the government has finally granted Mr. Schöneich a work permit.

The Schöneichs believe that their difficult situation is a way to tell those outside of Germany what is happening there. Although Germany is known as a free, democratic nation, this is far from true in the areas of education and parental rights.

The Schöneich family is asking for prayer from their fellow homeschoolers. They ask for wisdom, peace, and endurance and that God would be pleased to grant them new opportunities to stay in New Zealand. They are committed to pressing on until they have no further options.

“We will go on doing what God tells us whatever the consequences may be,” states Mr. Schöneich. “It is a great comfort,” he adds, “to know that other homeschoolers pray for us. God is the only one who can really help in this fight we have before us. We are grateful that we do not have to go through this alone, and we are very happy to have HSLDA and other homeschoolers on our side.”