An Aboriginal man is faced with being separated from his family and home, but first will likely face months in detention before a final decision made.
After serving a prison sentence at Perth’s Acacia Prison for burglary, Tim Galvin was transferred to the nearby Yongah Hill Immigration Detention and now faces deportation to New Zealand, a country he left in early childhood.
“They want to kick me out of my own country,” he told the Guardian Australia.
“My mum is Aboriginal – she’s from South Australia. All my kids are Aboriginal, my missus is Aboriginal, and they’re trying to send me to a foreign country.”
Mr Galvin only learned that he was a New Zealand citizen when his Australian visa was cancelled in 2016.
In 2014, the federal government changed immigration laws to trigger the potential for deportations based on the grounds of character. More than 4150 people who have served a jail term of 12-months or more have since been stripped of Australian visas and the coalition government hopes to expand those powers to deport thousands more with tough new legislation.
A significant proportion of people currently detained at onshore detention centres are faced with being sent to New Zealand, the Pacific Islands or Papua New Guinea.
It is not the first time the government has attempted to deport an Aboriginal person.
Previous cases have gone to the High Court, notably Daniel Love, a Kamilaroi man who is seeking damages. Like Mr Galvin, he was transferred from prison to immigration detention.
Both were born overseas but have lived in Australia since early childhood, have an Aboriginal parent and identify as Aboriginal.
Love was born in PNG and has an Aboriginal father. His permanent residency visa was reinstated last year after two months of detention.
Other recent cases involve several recognised Traditional Owners from the Torres Strait faced with deportation to Papua New Guinea.
Recently, PNG Chief Immigration Officer, Solomon Kantha, claimed the Australian Department of Home Affairs had not consulted the PNG government about a number of proposed deportations.
He said the deportations, which have involved the cancellation of Australian passports, the revocation of citizenship and in some cases offshore detention, may put the Australian Government in breach of international law by rendering a person stateless.
“The Australian Department of Home Affairs has not contacted PNG Immigration and Citizenship Authority regarding these cases to verify the citizenship status of these individuals that were to be deported to PNG,” Mr Kantha told NITV News earlier this month.
“PNG's position remains that any person that will be deported from Australia to PNG including Australian PNG-born residents or Australians with PNG-heritage will not be allowed entry into PNG until PNG Immigration and Citizenship Authority verifies their citizenship status,” said Mr Kantha.
“Those that were already recognised as Australian citizens and were issued Australian passports and voted in Australian elections are no longer PNG citizens.
At least two PNG-born Australian residents have already been deported to PNG, including Torres Strait Islander Jerry Dau, a Boigu Island Traditional Owner, who after two years at Christmas Island detention Centre was deported to PNG in October last year. Another Torres Strait Islander, Daniel Charles was deported to PNG in 2017.
When asked how a formally recognised Traditional Owner, registered on the Native Title Register, cannot be considered an Australian citizen, a spokesperson from the Department of Home Affairs told NITV:
“A person’s citizenship status is determined with reference to the Australian Citizenship Act 2007 (the Act). A person’s status under other legislation, such as that concerning Native Title, does not have the effect of making that person an Australian citizen.”