New Zealand tried to deport attacker as refugee

New Zealand spent years trying to deport Mohamed Samsudeen - the attacker who stabbed seven people on Friday (September 3) at an Auckland mall.

That's according to Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson in a news briefing Sunday (September 5).

"At every opportunity we have been looking for ways to deport this individual. In the very first briefing that the Prime Minister is aware of getting in May 2018, she raised the issue of deportation."

Court documents showed the 32-year-old Tamil Muslim from Sri Lanka came to New Zealand on a student visa seeking refugee status, which was granted in 2013.

Police became aware of Samsudeen in 2016 for advocating violent extremism online.

He's been arrested twice for holding a knife and was released from jail earlier this year.

During his three year jail term, it was discovered his refugee status was obtained illegally.

The government moved to cancel his visa - but the deportation was stopped because Samsudeen was in jail.

"We are talking here about a person who had refugee status and while you are aware of it, there's a process that went on about revoking that. We still have to go through the processes, the government is not above the law and we needed to go through that."

Questions have been raised about an apparent gap in the country's counter-terrorism laws.

The New Zealand government said on Sunday they are continuing to review their immigration laws,alongside laws to suppress terrorism.

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