Former Melbourne man deported

The family of a Melbourne man deported to Serbia say they are stunned the Australian government could strip him of his residency, knowingly leaving him stateless and destitute.

Robert Jovicic says he was dumped in Serbia, a country he had never even been before, in June 2004 despite having lived in Australia for all but two of his 38 years.

Serbia has refused to recognise him as a citizen, leaving him stateless with no right to work or welfare in Belgrade.

Mr Jovicic has spent the past two nights camped in sub-zero temperatures outside the Australian Embassy in the Serbian capital.

He says it's a desperate, last ditch attempt to convince the federal government to allow him back into Australia.

"If I don't lay out front of the embassy and try and get back home, I'll die," he told Australian radio.

"I'll die here just on medical grounds alone within a short time."

Jovicic’s Serbian-born parents arrived in Australia from France in 1968, when he was just two years old.

But after a string of burglaries to support his drug habit last year, the then-immigration minister Philip Ruddock deported him on character grounds.

Now his brother and sister, who live in Australia, said they were stunned at the way he'd been treated.

Dragan Jovicic urged the Australian government to reconsider its position and allow his brother to return.

"I'm stuck for words ... I had no idea where this was at," he said.

"I'd like to see Robert given a chance to be sent back to Australia. This is his home, he grew up here, he went to all the schools and he really is a good bloke."

Dragan Jovicic said he'd not spoken to Robert in about six months, but his brother was involved in a "paperwork" row with Serbian authorities, and he could not obtain a passport to enable
him to travel.

"The last time I spoke to Robert, I was under the impression there was a solicitor or barrister looking into it, and it would be sorted out," he said.

Dragan Jovicic said he believed the Australian government's decision to deport his brother was "definitely" punishment for his younger sibling's brushes with the law.

"Neither of us saw it coming, certainly Robert didn't as far as going to Serbia," he said.

"I don't think he realised exactly the implications of the whole ordeal ... and Robert has been a resident here for all his life, I don't understand why he was sent to Serbia when he was born in

Robert and Dragan's sister Susanna, who also lives in Australia, added her voice to appeals for her brother's return.

"You can't just throw someone who's been here all their lives and calls this place his home, and just dump them somewhere else," she has said.

"I mean, he wasn't even born there."

Questionable Conduct

The director of the Edmund Rice Centre for social justice Phil Glendenning supported her call.

"First of all, this gentlemen should be able to come home to be with his family who can care for him as he recovers from the physical and mental problems that he has," Mr Rice said.

"Secondly, the federal government needs to stop deporting people out of this country on papers that are questionable.

"We can no longer have a situation where we deport people, we dump them and then we leave them."

Australian national and mother of two, Vivian Solon Avarez, was also deported to the Philippines under bazaar circumstances following a car accident in 2001.

After four years she was found in a hostel for the destitute and dying, still suffering complications from her accident injuries.

She has since returned to Australia and is negotiating with the Howard government for compensation.

In an emotional interview from Belgrade, shown on national television
last night, Robert Jovicic said sleeping outside the embassy was the only form of protest left open to him.

"I've explained to the embassy if I'm considered Australian trash that I will rot on Australian soil," Mr Jovicic said.

"I have indicated this to them and I will. I cannot survive here.

"They've taken everything from me. I've lost everything that was worth anything to me.

"I've lost my princess, which was my wife, my home ... my hair is falling out.

"If I don't lay out front of the embassy and try and get back home I'll die. I'll die here just on medical grounds alone within a short time."

For the Record

Australia's ambassador to Serbia John Oliver has raised concerns about Mr Jovicic's situation in an email to his family in Australia.

But the immigration department has released a statement saying Mr Jovicic had a substantial criminal record and that Mr Ruddock, when he was immigration minister, used his discretion to cancel Robert's visa under the Migration Act.

As a result, he is permanently banned from entering Australia.
Source SBS

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