Refugee to stay after crime spree
A DRUG-ADDICTED Iraqi refugee with an "impressive" 15-year criminal history, an "apparent inability to work" and a "significant risk" of reoffending has been spared deportation.
The ruling came after the Administrative Appeals Tribunal ruled he would not be able to access adequate mental health treatment in his home country.
But the AAT rejected a number of other excuses advanced by the man in his bid to stay, including that he faced persecution because he was homosexual and had converted to Christianity, finding there was "no evidence" to substantiate the claims.
The 44-year-old, known only as MAH, arrived in Australia by boat in 1999, and within 10 years had acquired a "substantial" criminal record with convictions for at least 14 offences including drugs charges as well as assault and intimidation, for which he received suspended 12-month prison sentences.
In one 2009 incident, he threatened to shoot a patron at a Nowra pub, headbutted another and had to be evicted from the venue twice.
In 2010, he was issued a "formal warning" by the then Immigration Minister that further offending may result in cancellation of his visa. Despite this, he subsequently racked up 14 more convictions for offences including larceny and unauthorised entry, for which he served two concurrent prison sentences of 12 months.
A police fact sheet described MAH as having a drug habit funded by "continual property-related offences". Despite having worked as a formwork carpenter in the past, he has been receiving a disability support pension since 2014.
His visa was cancelled in December 2016 on character grounds and he was taken into immigration detention in March last year. He was placed on the methadone drug treatment program while awaiting deportation at Villawood.
In July last year, a nurse deemed him medically "unfit to travel" to Christmas Island due to his ongoing methadone treatment and chronic leg ulcers, leading to the possibility of indefinite detention unless Immigration Minister Peter Dutton's decision to cancel his visa was set aside.
In overturning the decision this week, AAT senior member Peter Taylor SC (pictured) found MAH's offences were "impressive in their 15-year time span, number and diversity" and "taken together they convey the impression of a person who either has no real subjective commitment to, or very problematic ability to achieve, a law-abiding existence".
But Mr Taylor found that they could "reasonably be regarded as at the lower end of the range of conduct that merits description as materially 'serious'."
"Significantly, it is almost 10 years since any of MAH's convictions has involved offences relating to violence or apprehended violence," he said.
"Furthermore, and despite the fact that two of his convictions were for assault 'occasioning actual bodily harm', there is no evidence that any of his offences involved substantial injury or incapacity to any of the victims.
"However, the number and time span of MAH's offences, together with his drug addiction, apparent social isolation and inability to work, point to a significant risk of his reoffending."
Mr Taylor found there was "no substance in MAH's claimed homosexuality", pointing out that his "personal history is that of a married heterosexual male with at least four children".
Bizarrely, in oral evidence MAH contradicted his own written submission, denying having a sexual relationship or even having lived with the man he had claimed was his romantic partner.
"Nor is there any substance in MAH's claim to have converted to Christianity," Mr Taylor said. "[He] was not able to name or describe the denomination of the 'local church', did not know the name of its pastor, and produced no evidence of any kind to corroborate his asserted Christian conversion."
In coming down in MAH's favour, Mr Taylor pointed to his "significant" health issues, including chronic opioid misuse and methadone treatment, leg ulcers and schizophrenia, which had "led to cognitive decline, and requires ongoing medication and monitoring, which is unlikely to be available to MAH if he is returned to Iraq".
In a catch-22, Mr Taylor said MAH's ongoing detention was "likely to pose significant risk of further deterioration of his mental health", which in turn would "only compromise the possibility of improvement, sufficient to permit safe travel, of either his leg wounds or his dependency on drug replacement therapy".
"Those considerations, together with the acknowledged difficulties that MAH would be likely to encounter in obtaining and retaining health care in Iraq, combine to outweigh the considerations favouring revocation," he said.
A spokesman for the Home Affairs minister said Mr Dutton was aware of the case, but couldn't comment on specific details of individuals.