SBS World News Radio: The parents of a deported Cambodian man are pleading for the federal government to allow him to return to Australia for cancer treatment.
The parents of a deported Cambodian man are pleading for the federal government to allow him to return to Australia for cancer treatment.
Hong Ung is homeless in Phnom Penh and says he is suffering from prostate cancer.
But with a growing number of cases like his, questions are being raised over whether immigrants who commit crimes should be deported.
At age 10, Hong Ung was a refugee granted safehaven in Australia.
Now, 35 years later, he has been deported back to Cambodia and is sleeping on the streets.
To him, Cambodia is a foreign country.
He says he has no language, no identification card - and because of that - no job.
"I've been staying in Australia for a long, long time, you see. I came to be like an Aussie, you know?"
The young Ung and his family had fled Cambodia's Khmer Rouge killing fields, where as many as two million people may have been murdered.
He grew up in western Sydney, but, by age 19, he had been jailed for break and enter, drug offences and extortion.
He openly admits to what he did.
"I think I made a mistake. I've been a bad boy. I was like a gangster and all that, and, suddenly, I got deported."
His crimes aside, Hong Ung made another critical mistake -- he did not exercise his right to turn his permanent residency visa into Australian citizenship.
His parents blame themselves.
Without citizenship, and as a criminal, Mr Ung had his visa cancelled.
His father, Yang Sen Lu, says, every day, he prays for his son to come home.
"My son is alone in a foreign place. Please let him come home. He's all alone, and we miss him so much. We just want him to come home."
To make matters worse, Mr Ung has been diagnosed with prostate cancer.
His mother, Qin Ming Huang, is desperate to get him back to Australia for treatment.
"He needs medicine. Without money, he can't get treatment. We don't want to be a burden on government. If he's allowed to come home, we can take care of our son ourselves in Australia."
The question at the centre of the debate, regarding her son's deportation, is whether it is right to deport a person permanently to a country that person has never known.
Hong Ung's lawyer, Ray Turner, says no.
"If you grow up in Australia, and you effectively become an Australian, you should not be deported."
But the Victims of Crime Assistance League's Howard Brown says he disagrees.
"Being given residency in Australia is a privilege, and, with privilege, come responsibilities. He has completely abrogated his responsibilities by committing all the offences that he has. So as far as we're concerned, he's been hoisted by his own petard."*
Under changes to Section 501 of the Migration Act, it is now easier to cancel a person's visa if, after a year in jail, that person fails a so-called "character test."
The Australian Lawyers Alliance's Greg Barns says it has become a popular move, with the government now detaining thousands of people for deportation that way.
But he says he disagrees with it.
"There are far better ways to deal with that matter, including, if the Immigration Department wants to, ensuring that that person, for example, makes some sort of reparation to the Australian community. But don't send them back to a place like Cambodia."
SBS has met some of the deportees Cambodia accepted.
They say there is no offer of any help on arrival.
"They put us in a land we don't know (anything) about. What the hell? We're just dropped off, and, then, 'Get fit in,' right? This is bullshit."
The United States has deported 500 people the same way.
Another 2,000 have been told they will be banished, but one of them, David Ros, says they do not know when.
"I'm on a list for deportation, so it could happen any day, I don't know. The hardest part about this thing is not knowing."
As for Hong Ung's family, they say they know their son has learned his lesson.
They say he deserves - and desperately needs - another chance.