Australia’s migration system is again under scrutiny as a man who says he was born in Melbourne faces deportation to Ireland.
Daniel Smyth, 44, has been jailed twice for theft and burglary, but says he turned his life around after he stopped taking heroin five years ago.
He claims to have lost his Australian passport while holidaying in Ireland in 1997 and that he subsequently returned to Australia on an Irish passport he got through his father.
His trouble started last December when he applied for an Australian passport to travel to Thailand. But instead of a new passport he got a bridging visa and was told this could be cancelled because he could be considered to not be of “good character”.
The department of immigration told the Age newspaper how an Australian could lose their citizenship. “Information provided by Mr Smyth indicates that he may have lost his Australian citizenship in 1992. Due to the situation that before 4 April 2002, the Australian Citizenship Act 1948 provided for the automatic loss of Australian citizenship in some circumstances where an Australian citizen acquired the citizenship of another country.”
Mr Smyth, who has two children, aged 11 and 13, says he was surprised to discover there was a problem. “I’m Australian as far as I’m concerned,” he said. “Seeing I do not have the old [Irish] passport, I would need to reapply for Irish citizenship again. So, that tells me I may not still have the Irish citizenship anyway, which would make me stateless.”
In August an Irish Vietnam war veteran who faced deportation from Australia after spending time in prison was granted a reprieve. Michael McFadden, 70, moved from Dublin to Australia at the age of 10. In the late 1960s he served 10 months in Vietnam. He suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and has alcohol dependency and brain damage.
Mr McFadden thought he had become an Australian citizen, but when he was jailed last year it was discovered he just had permanent residency. He was saved from being sent back to Ireland by the direct intervention of the minister for immigration, Peter Dutton.
The Returned and Services League (RSL) says the health system has badly failed Mr McFadden, who was left in immigration detention in Sydney for four months.
Since his reprieve from being deported, Mr McFadden has absconded at least five times from a care facility.
“Each of those times that he absconded from the facility, we hadn’t been informed for a couple of days, and it’s our understanding the police, after he absconded, were able to bring him back,” said Norbert Keough, the director of the RSL Veterans Centre.
“On one occasion when he absconded, he wound up absconding for about six days and in that time allegedly assaulted a police offer and went through nearly $26,000 in his bank account.
“This raised major concerns with us at the RSL Veterans Centre and we had specifically asked how did this happen, why wasn’t he scheduled, because our understanding was he was making threats.”
Mr Keough said the Mental Health Act caused critical delays in scheduling Mr McFadden.
“Because our client has a diminished capacity as a result of brain disease that is linked back to war, the Mental Health Act really doesn’t address that,” he said.
“So somebody that has a frontal lobe brain damage that has been diagnosed and cognitively assessed, it’s much harder to get them scheduled involuntarily than let’s say it is somebody that has schizophrenia.”
Mr Keough said Australia owes Mr McFadden better care than he is getting.
“This is a person that served our country honourably, went to war in Vietnam, and as a result has war-caused injuries, so we as a society have a duty to look after him now when he has this brain disease,” he said.
The Irish Echo has also become aware of another Irish man who is being held in Villawood detention centre in Sydney. The man, who has been in Australia for 22 years recently spent six months in jail and had another six months suspended. Because the total sentence was for a year, he is now facing deportation to Ireland.
The man, who has a wife and two children in Australia, has been a permanent resident for 18 years, but never became a citizen. When he was released from jail he was told his residency visa was cancelled and he was taken to Villawood.
He does not want to leave Australia, but has been advised by his case manager that he should go back to Ireland and apply for another visa from there.