Michael Fear, Australian grandfather who's lived life of crime, deported to New Zealand despite not living here since he was 2

An Australian grandfather who's spent multiple stints behind bars amid decades of violent crime has lost a fight against the decision to cancel his visa and has been deported back to New Zealand.  

Michael Scott Fear, 57, was deported because of his extensive criminal history - despite being a resident of Australia since 1968 when he was 2-years-old, according to the country's Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT). 

His visa cancellation in 2021 came after receiving a six-month prison sentence for assault occasioning actual bodily harm.  

That was on top of a raft of other convictions between 1986 and 2021 including possession and supply of drugs; firearms possession; driving offences; theft; destruction or damage to property; assault; domestic violence and offences against police officers.  

Fear had sought to stop his deportation in August 2021 but was later that year convicted of drugs charges and was sentenced to an aggregate term of two years and nine months.  

Still, Fear argued he'd lived in Australia for 55 years and had no remaining relatives in New Zealand. He said he was only a New Zealand citizen "by chance", given his parents were only in Aotearoa for a short period when he was born.

The thought of being removed from Australia was giving him "anxiety attacks" and couldn't believe he would be "thrown out of my country", he said.

"Mr Fear confirmed that he did not consider his visa could be cancelled despite previously receiving two warnings to that effect from the [immigration] department," said the AAT decision. "Mr Fear said that his offending has 'severely' impacted his life and cost him 'everything', including his family, children and grandchildren. He confirmed to the tribunal that he is remorseful for his actions because of the harm he has done to other people and his family.  

"He told the tribunal that removal to New Zealand would give him 'no chance' to reconnect with family. Mr Fear's hopes and plans... if he were to remain in Australia are to be a productive community member, see his family and remain drug and crime-free."  

Fear told the AAT he also "could not recall" the details of four of the crimes he was convicted of, including destroying or damaging property in 2006.  

Nonetheless, the AAT late last month affirmed the Australian government's decision to deport Fear under the contentious section 501 of the country's Migration Act. 

"The tribunal has found that Mr Fear does not pass the 'character test'… because of his 'substantial criminal record,'" the AAT decision said. "The tribunal is satisfied, based on its assessment of all considerations... regarding the strength, nature and duration of ties to Australia, which all weigh in favour of revocation, do not outweigh the three remaining relevant primary considerations, being the protection of the Australian community, family violence committed by the non-citizen and the expectations of the Australian community, which all weigh heavily against revocation of the cancellation decision.  

"Accordingly, Mr Fear's application before the tribunal is unsuccessful."  

Section 501 of Australia's Migration Act has long been a point of contention between Australia and New Zealand. It allows Australia to send people back to their home country if they don't pass a character test - such as going to prison for more than 12 months.  

However, Australia's government earlier this year signed off on major changes for 501 deportees - with decisions now having to consider the "strength, duration and nature" of their ties with the Australian community.