WHEN Torres Strait Islander Andrew Kabe immigrated to Australia three decades ago he thought, being born on the PNG island of Daru in 1967 prior the county's independence in 1975, he had legitimate claim to be Australian.
After being taken from his Cairns residence by Australian Border Force earlier this year, Mr Kabe is currently in West Australia's Yongah Hill detention Centre fighting for his right to remain in Australia.
Mr Kabe married a Torres Strait islander soon after he flew from Daru to Thursday Island in his early twenties on a PNG passport, where he then lived on Murray Island (Mer) in the Torres Strait for several years.
While the marriage did not last, his residency in Australia did, where Mr Kabe married another Torres Strait Islander from Erub.
Mr Kabe has been with this current partner for the past 15 years and was helping raise their two children aged 12 and 14 in Cairns, when earlier this year Australian Border Force came to his home and sent him to Christmas Island.
Mr Kabe who had served part of a criminal sentence in Mareeba's Lotus Glen Prison for assault charges said he was only four months from completing his good behaviour bond when Australian Border Force sent him to offshore detention.
“I had been out of jail five or six years. They just came and picked me up from my home and took me away.
“They just came and got me. I didn't breach my patrol, they just came and got me. I only had four months left (of his suspended sentence).
“They took me from Cairns to Brisbane for a month and a half, then they sent me to Christmas Island for eight months until they closed it. Then they sent me to Western Australia in late September this year.”
Mr Kabe said he believed he was issued a spouse visa when he first arrived then put on a permanent resident visa, but is not sure.
“I got in touch with (Australian) immigration because when I was born, PNG was territory of Australia, but citizenship sent me a letter and they said because of the constitution change, I was a PNG citizen.”
Mr Kabe said he has a lawyer in Brisbane assisting him to get a protection visa, which he has been told will take another ten months to obtain. During that time he will remain in detention.
Traditional Owners Detained
Mr Kabe is in Yongah Hill with 54 year old Torres Strait Islander, and registered Traditional Owner of the island of Boigu, Daniel Gibuma, who is grieving the loss of a family member this week.
“It's just so devastating for me right now, as the family is in sorrow right now on the island (Boigu).”
“What is happening to us is wrong, we have another Islander in here with dementia, Uncle Tony Charlie, and he served in the Australian Army.”
Mr Gibuma said that Tony Charlie, from the Torres Strait Island of Erub, also has a nephew in Yongah Hill, Akee Charlie, who is also grieving a loss in his family. His son passed away last month and he was not permitted to attend the funeral.
Mr Gibuma said Tony Charlie's son Daniel Charlie was deported last year to PNG, where the Post Courier reported earlier this year he is both stateless and homeless in Port Moresby.
Mr Gibuma's brother in law, Jerry Dau, also a registered Traditional Owner of Boigu, was deported to PNG in October after two years on Christmas Island.
All of these men have criminal records and have found themselves stripped of their rights to remain in Australia after the federal government made amendments to Section 501 of the Migration Act 1958 providing authorities with far-reaching powers for visa cancellation on character grounds, which can include criminal conduct.
Criminal conduct may be interpreted as traffic offences, or being a public nuisance. These visa revocations have increased significantly since 2015.
However, it seems deporting Mr Gibuma to PNG may be off the table after PNG's Chief Immigration Officer Solomon Kantha has told PNG's the National newspaper last week they will not allow him to enter the country until it is confirmed he is a PNG citizen.
This essentially thwarts the ability of the Department of Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton to deport Mr Gibuma said Mr Kantha.
“PNG Immigration will not allow anyone entry into the country until their citizenship status is verified and confirmed to be Papua New Guinean,” he said. “To date we have not received any formal report or request from Australian authorities.”
NITV has contacted PNG department of Immigration and the Department of Home Affairs for a response.
-This story has been produced in partnership with regional Queensland newspaper Torres News.