Australia’s controversial Migrant Act has left another Irish family in limbo.
Dublin-born Michael Walsh (not his real name) is a stranger to Ireland, having migrated to Australia as a baby more than 50 years ago, but he now faces forced repatriation after his incarceration in 2016.
His partner Linda Hughes (not her real name) said she was “angry” one mistake could lead to a permanent resident’s deportation to a country they barely know.
“Sometimes people do things out of character, they’re not repeat offenders…
“I’m desperate for my partner to stay in Australia.”
Ms Hughes would not disclose her fiancé’s criminal record, however said he had served the minimum two and a half years of his sentence and that a forensic psychologist had assessed Mr Walsh, finding him to be no threat to society.
Section 501 of the Migrant Act allows the minister for home affairs to cancel the visas of immigrants who fail a strict character test due to criminal conduct or potential danger to the Australian community.
Ms Hughes said her partner expected to be informed in February if he would be deported, but seven months later he has yet to receive such confirmation.
“We’ve heard nothing from Immigration,” she said.
“That’s what’s making us go crazy, it’s just a waiting game.”
Mr Walsh is Ms Hughes’ primary carer, as she lives with a number of chronic illnesses.
Immigrants were once protected from deportation if they had held permanent resident status for 10 or more years, but section 501 now allows non-citizens to be deported after any period of time in Australia.
Mr Walsh considers himself Australian regardless of a lack of formal citizenship, with his whole family having found an adopted home down under.
NSW Council for Civil Liberties Treasurer Stephen Blanks described deportation after a prison sentence as double punishment, with migrants unable to re-enter and reintegrate into society after serving their time.
“It’s Australia’s responsibility to ensure rehabilitation,” Mr Blanks said.
He has labelled the migration legislation “misconceived” and “arbitrary” due to its automatic application to any non-citizen who fails Australia’s character test, regardless of the diverse circumstances of each case.
The onus then falls on immigrants to convince the minister to reinstate their visa to avoid deportation.
Ms Hughes agreed that individuals’ conditions should be examined before visas were revoked.
“I think the decision should be case by case.
“Just because you’re born somewhere, doesn’t mean you belong there.”