I’ve just received an email from Liberty Victoria. It says this:
In 1999 the Howard Government amended the Migration Act to permit the Minister for Immigration to deport non-citizens on character grounds irrespective of how long they had lived in Australia. Previously, permanent residents who had lived in Australia for 10 years or more had not been deported. This power has been exercised on numerous occasions to deport from Australia people who had committed serious crimes and who, to all in tents and purposes, were Australians but by a technicality were not Australian citizens.
“Well, that’s not very nice I thought, but I wasn’t going to get too worked up about it. If someone commits a serious crime here and we can dodge the cost and foist them onto their country of birth, well, I’ve heard of worse things.” If someone arrived here at 20 and robbed a bank 13 years later, well, I don’t think we should deport them, but I can’t get too upset about it. No doubt others would get upset. Perhaps they’re right.
But what of people who arrived as small children. Surely we they shouldn’t be deported? Below the fold are some examples of deportees.
- Stefan Nystrom, who arrived in Australia in 1974 as a 27 day old baby and lived here continuously until the age of 33 when he was deported to Sweden. Since he failed to take out Australian citizenship he was liable to deportation to the country where he was born but with which he has no other ties. His court challenge to his deportation failed ultimately in t he High Court and he is now seeking redress in the UN Human Rights Committee.
- Robert Jovicic , who was born in France to Serbian parents and come to Australia aged two, where he lived until deportation to Serbia at the age of 38. He lived destitute on the streets of Belgrade until media publicity prompted the Government to permit his return in 2006. After init ially insisting that Jovicic apply for Serbian citizenship, the Minister granted him a temporary visa expiring on 4 January 2009. He cannot acquire Australian cit izenship because of his criminal record and remains stateless.
- Ali Tastan, who arrived in Australia from Turkey at the age o f six and was deported to Turkey aged 30 despite a finding by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal that, because of his drug addiction and sc hizophrenia, deportation would place him in an extremely vulnerable position. Three years after being deported, he was found homeless and mentally derang ed on the streets of Ankara. After a public outcry he was permitted to return to Australia in 2006.
- Steve Ongel , who arrived in Australia aged 18 months in 1970 and was deported to Turkey in 2003 leaving behind a wife and two daughters aged two and four.
From a human rights perspective no doubt one could end up in a worse place than Sweden. But when you’ve been Australian since you were 27 days old? That’s a bit rich.