Canadian-born man faces deportation amid immigration department 'secrecy', father says

Canadian-born man faces deportation amid immigration department 'secrecy', father says

Canadian-born man faces deportation amid immigration department 'secrecy', father says

Updated 11 September 2017, 8:15 AEST

A Melbourne dad is pleading with authorities not to deport his Canadian-born son, 25, who has an intellectual disability and has not been to Canada since he was two.

As an 11-year-old growing up in suburban Melbourne, Colin Martin held promise as an ice hockey player — a nod to his birthplace in Canada.

Now, at 25, he is facing deportation to the Great White North, despite not having set foot there since he was two years old.

"He's looking down the barrel of the gun in being sent to his homeland of Canada, where he has no support at all," his father Neil Martin said.

Mr Martin strokes a medal hanging off a green and gold ribbon, which was given to his son for playing on the Australian ice hockey team. He fingers the few photos he has of Colin, who grew up primarily with his Australian-born mother.

The worry on his face is clear and frustration boils to the surface when he is on the phone to staff at the Yongah Hill Immigration and Detention Centre, two hours from Perth.

"The last phone call I got from my son he was being threatened, so I'd like to speak to him so that I can tell if he's safe or not, please," he implored down the line.

A conversation between the two men on Friday was troubling.

"He was afraid. He'd been threatened with stabbing," Mr Martin said.

"He told me that the other detainees were demanding that he produce drugs for them and if he didn't produce drugs then he was going to be hurt."

Colin has an intellectual disability. Since his teens he has been in trouble with the law, mostly minor offences like car theft and graffiti.

Those 'low-level' crimes are all the more serious now because despite efforts by his family and case workers over the years, he has never sorted out his immigration status — so as far as the Australian Government is concerned he is a Canadian citizen.

In June, he was due to be bailed from the Ringwood Magistrates' Court in Melbourne's east, but instead of being released into the custody of his father he was taken by Border Force officers to Maribyrnong Immigration and Detention Centre.

"It doesn't seem terribly fair, but unfortunately this case is all too typical," Greg Barns from the Australian Lawyers Alliance said.

"Since the change in the law in 2014, which was supported by both sides of politics — Labor and the Coalition — the Minister for Immigration has enormous power effectively to sweep people off the streets who've failed what is called the character test and put them in detention."

During his time at Maribyrnong, Colin claims he was mistreated by two guards — sworn at, threatened and touched inappropriately during body searches.

A letter sent from his lawyers to the centre on August 22 alleged the staff's "behaviour is unprofessional, unacceptable, and breaches our client's basic human rights".

The next day he was woken early and put on a plane to Western Australia and the Yongah Hill centre, without his family and lawyers being notified.

"People who do make complaints find themselves segregated, isolated, sent to other detention centres and yet immigration detention, as a matter of law, is not meant to be punishment," Mr Barns said, describing an "appalling" system in place.

"It's cruel, it's inhumane, it's expensive and above all it is causing great social dislocations."

Lawyers concerned about deportations

Over the weekend, Mr Martin was finally able to get some answers. After a 13-minute telephone conversation with the Yongah Hill centre, he was able to determine Colin had been transferred once again to a centre in Perth.

The ABC understands it was for medical or legal reasons. Colin is due back before a Melbourne magistrate at the end of next month and his lawyers have arranged doctors' appointments in Melbourne to try to build a case to allow him to stay in Australia.

"There seems to be a guise of secrecy around anything around immigration and border protection," Mr Martin said.

Lawyers are becoming increasingly concerned about the growing number of deportations planned by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection.

Last week, the ABC highlighted the case of an elderly Indian woman who was set to be deported because she has a dependent daughter with a disability.

A visa application by Florence Allen, 80, was denied because her daughter Sheryil has autism. They are expected to be deported next month.

"People like Colin and Sheryil [Allen] ought to be protected because Australia does have international obligations when it comes to treating people with an illness [or condition]," Mr Barns said.

The Immigration Department would not discuss Colin's transfer, but said it was investigating the claims at Maribyrnong.

"The department is aware of a complaint made by this detainee … all such complaints are thoroughly investigated and that process is continuing," a statement issued to the ABC read.

"Non-citizens, who engage in criminal activity or other serious conduct of concern, regardless of their age or nationality, should generally expect to forfeit the privilege of staying in Australia."