• Edward McHugh with his family in 2000. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
The daughters of Edward McHugh - who is awaiting deportation despite living in Australia for more than 40 years - have begged for his release from immigration detention.
Ella Archibald-Binge

13 Nov 2018 - 4:17 PM  UPDATED 13 Nov 2018 - 4:26 PM

The 19-year-old daughter of Edward McHugh says the family is devastated after learning of his imminent deportation to New Zealand. 

"We’re missing him down here. It’s heartbreaking," said Kiasha McHugh, one of four daughters who identify with the Bardi Jaawi people north of Broome on their mother's side.  

"I just want my dad back."

Mr McHugh was born in the Cook Islands, but was adopted by a Queensland family at age six and later granted an Australian passport. 

Earlier this year, the Australian government revoked his passport and told him he was in fact never an Australian citizen, SBS News revealed

The 50-year-old is now being held at Brisbane Immigration Transit Accommodation Centre where he is awaiting deportation to New Zealand on character grounds under section 501 of the Immigration Act due to a criminal conviction. All Cook Island nationals have New Zealand citizenship.

His daughter Tannielle McHugh said she initially thought it was "ridiculous" that her father could be deported. 

"It was more of a shock at first, I mean hearing that he was going to be deported for really no reason at all – it was like what the hell is going on?" she told NITV News. 

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"Because he’s adopted, I’ve never known where he came from or his biological family, so we always assumed he was Australian."

The 24-year-old described her father as a smart, caring man who was always there for his family.

"We would like to have him with us and see us grow, so not having the opportunity to know that he’s around, it’s upsetting," she said.

"No child wants their parents to get pulled away. We’ve already had a situation where the children are pulled away, why the parents?".

Another daughter, Teri McHugh, said her seven-year-old daughter was constantly asking about her grandfather. 

"My daughter loves my father so much and she been looking for him all the time," she told NITV News.

"My daughter wants her grandfather back."

Mr McHugh is challenging the deportation order.

The Department of Home Affairs told Mr McHugh this year that he had never applied for citizenship by descent and that his adoption did not make him an Australian citizen because it happened before the law was changed.

“While the Department cannot comment on individual cases, the Australian Government takes seriously its responsibility to protect the community from non-citizens who choose to engage in criminal activity," a spokesperson told SBS News. 

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