The Irish family of a former Bandidos bikie is despairing at their son’s imminent deportation from Australia under a controversial policy.
Paul Pennie, 46, is awaiting a Federal Court appeal hearing to determine if he will be sent back to a country he barely knows after being sentenced to prison on charges including possession of methylamphetamine with intent to supply.
The Pennie family migrated to Australia in 1980 when Paul was only six. His father Gerry is worried his son’s deportation will have a devastating effect on the close-knit family.
“It would destroy us,” he said.
“He doesn’t know anyone in Ireland.”
Mr Pennie said his son’s battles, which ultimately led to his visa being cancelled in 2016, stemmed from the sudden death of his younger brother and a workplace injury that left him unable to continue his job as a security guard.
The Australian government deported more than 1,000 people between 2016 and 2018 on character grounds, a policy recently criticised by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
The issue was having a “corrosive” impact on Australia’s relationship” with New Zealand, Ms Ardern said. She argued that deportations should not be enforced after an individual has lived in a country for 10 years.
Gerry Pennie emphasised that his son had never been charged with or engaged in violent crime, and had severed ties with the Bandidos bikie club.
“I know him as my son. He has never laid a hand on anybody. Never,” Mr Pennie said.
His son was allegedly nearly bashed to death by fellow bikie-connected inmates in prison after he refused to participate in a stabbing, his father said.
The Irish-Australian suffers from both mental health issues and heart disease, and is concerned about his ability to access and afford treatment should he be deported.
During Mr Pennie’s 2018 Federal Court hearing, the then Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, Petter Dutton, said he accepted that Mr Pennie’s deportation would potentially exacerbate his psychological conditions “given his history of depression and suicidal ideation”, but that he would likely be able to access health support in Ireland as a habitual resident.
It is uncertain if Mr Pennie would satisfy the conditions necessary to be eligible for social assistance, because factors considered by Ireland’s Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection include the applicant’s intention to live in Ireland for the foreseeable future.
Mr Pennie has no desire to live in Ireland, where he has no ties, and his family is concerned he would not be able to independently establish a new life or find accommodation having been either incarcerated or in a detention centre since 2015.
Paul Pennie has guaranteed work with a friend’s lawn-mowing business if he is allowed to stay in Australia, the family said.
His sister Clare Flint accepted some Australians would believe deportation was necessary as part of a tough stance on crime, but she emphasised that other foreign criminals had avoided expulsion after being sentenced for more serious, violent crimes.
Early this year it was revealed that hundreds of immigrants who had their visas cancelled after committing crimes in Australia have been spared deportation, including a drug trafficker who had spent more than 10 years in prison.
“Put your feet in our shoes,” his sister says. “Everyone’s made mistakes, but Paul’s paying the ultimate price in losing his family.”