Man facing deportation from Australia due to criminal charges says he fears for his life in New Zealand

By Rayssa Almeida of RNZ

A New Zealand man with a long list of criminal charges is set to be deported from Australia after the government cancelled his visa, and says he fears for his life if sent back home.

While in New Zealand, 38-year-old Jerome Raymond Fraser McMillan committed 23 offences, including robbery, burglary, theft, breaches of community work, drug possession and trespass.

In 2009 he moved to Australia, where he has accumulated 20 sentencing appearances, including possession of weapons, domestic violence and assaulting a police officer.

He had also been ordered to serve terms of imprisonment in eight of the 14 years he has lived over there.

In June last year, he was sentenced to 17 months in jail, pushing for the mandatory cancellation of his visa, but McMillan sought a review through the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

In a decision presented this week, the tribunal said it won't revoke the cancellation.

"This applicant has committed scores of offences. Many people have been victims of his thefts and dishonesty, and suffered financially," the tribunal wrote.

"His partner has been subjected to physical violence, and his children have witnessed some of his family violence conduct. He has driven unlawfully on numerous occasions. He has shown a cavalier attitude towards the law, repeatedly demonstrated contempt for court orders, and failed to pay between $20,000 and $30,000 in fines.

During McMillan's hearing at the Tribunal in Brisbane in the beginning of this month, he spoke about his addiction to alcohol and drugs and his periods of homelessness.

He said he feared for his safety if sent back to New Zealand.

"I was used and abused by the gangs in NZ, my life will be doomed if I am sent back.

McMillan said it was a life-and-death situation for him.

"If I was to return to NZ, I would be forced to hide and or defend my life due to unresolved issues the Mongrel Mob and Black Power have with me.

"I've never been in a gang and never wanted to be. I grew up from a young age being terrorised and abused by them. They've kidnapped and beaten me and done a number of things to me. It was tit for tat right up until I left New Zealand. I've tried so hard to forget that life."

The Tribunal said there was no independent evidence to substantiate the claims.

"The Tribunal finds that the Applicant's concerns arise from past conduct of family members and friends with whom he has severed contact, and not spoken to for years.

"After a 14-year absence from New Zealand, there is little reason to believe that the Applicant will be singled out for any adverse treatment more so than any other New Zealander, and notes that the Applicant has advanced no clear reason why this would be the case.

It said McMillan's concerns did not appear to be well founded.

"Should the Applicant's concerns prove to be well founded, it will be open to him to engage the assistance of New Zealand police, or to relocate to an area where he is unknown."

If deported, McMillan would have to be separated from his 2 children, who live with his partner.

The Tribunal found that the risk to the community would be bigger than the impacts the deportation would have on McMillan's personal life.

It said he had received a warning of Immigration's intention to cancel his visa in 2019 and kept re-offending.

"That the Applicant should continue offending in the face of a warning from the Department shows a reckless indifference to the visa consequences of his conduct, reflective of his overall contempt for the law."

The tribunal ruled that McMillan had failed to meet the expectations of the Australian community and there was at least a moderate risk that he would offend again.

"…the tribunal considers that the nature of the applicant's offending is such that the Australian community would expect that his visa remains cancelled."

RNZ has asked the Department of Home Affairs when Mr McMillan was due to be deported back to New Zealand and if he would still be serving time once back.

A spokesperson said in a statement that it couldn't comment on individual cases.

"All non-citizens who wish to enter or remain in Australia must satisfy the requirements of the Migration Act 1958 and Migration Regulations 1994.

"It is a visa holder's responsibility to maintain a lawful immigration status while they remain in Australia, and individuals who no longer hold a valid visa are expected to depart Australia."

According to Australian laws, McMillan could still appeal the decision to a higher court if he believed AAT made a mistake in law when deciding not to revoke his visa cancellation.

'That support was quite often offered by gangs' - Advocate

Filipa Payne is the organiser of Route 501, an advocacy group for returnees.

She said there was a lot of fear for people in detention coming to New Zealand to be pulled into gang activity.

"It is a valid fear. As we know, there has been plenty of evidence that gang activity has very much targeted people coming under Section 501.

"They are easy targets, they are vulnerable, they got no support system in New Zealand, they have got nothing to help them establish themselves in quite a quick period of time, which is what they need.

That support was quite often offered by gangs, Payne said.

"We just have to look when deportees are kept in quarantine, how many gangs are circulating there, physically and mentally trying to get people to join their associations.

"We have this expectation that they are going to arrive here and are going to find a long-lasting family that will give them support but that's not the case for the majority of people. Unfortunately for some of them that family support has been offered by gang association."

Payne said New Zealand needed a proper re-integration programme.

"We are setting them up for failure in this country."

"I believe the man has to take responsibility for his own actions, and he would be capable not to engage in gang activity if moved to New Zealand, but for that to happen we need to offer support, and that's where we as nation have been failing."

She said deportees needed a voluntary support network.

"We need a voluntary programme where people can sign up on their free will, not compulsory, where they can go and stay in a facility for a period of time where we help them get their life in order, [where] we offer support to get their superannuation across, so they have finances for themselves, [a place where] we help them to get any licenses that they need to get back to the workforce and things like that.

"Who is offering them that kind of support? Who is offering them help? Who do you think is offering them friendship, or potential work? Gangs are, and this is a fact," Payne said.