Life-long Australian resident faces deportation to Croatia
Brisbane woman Maryanne Caric, a convicted drug trafficker, is facing deportation to Croatia, a country she left as a baby.
Ms Caric migrated to Australia with her family when she was 2. Her father was a violent alcoholic and she ran away from home at 14. She acquired a drug habit and eventually started selling drugs to feed her addiction, leading to multiple convictions and many years in jail.
Australia deports non-citizens sentenced to more than 12 months in prison. They can appeal to the Immigration Minister for a compassionate exemption, but lawyer Jason Donnelly estimates that "at least 80%" of people in Ms Caric’s situation are deported.
This continued program of automatic deportation with scarce exceptions suggests Australia is at risk of repeating the violations suffered by Stefan Nystrom in a very similar scenario.
In 2011, the UN Human Rights Committee found that in deporting Mr Nystrom Australia had arbitrarily interfered with his right to family.
Further, in a landmark decision, it found that although Mr Nystrom is not an Australian citizen, his 'right to enter his own country' applies in his case to Australia (ICCPR art. 12).
Australia has failed to halt or to remedy the ongoing violations against Mr Nystrom, and now it appears set to repeat them.
Like Mr Nystrom, Ms Caric has never left Australia, and did not realise she was not an Australian citizen. She knows no-one in her country of birth and does not speak the language.
She has been in Villawood immigration detention centre in Sydney for a year now.
Explains Ms Caric:
"I’m not asking anyone to feel sorry for me. I have done all my jail, I’ve been punished. I have lost everything.
"They’re sending me to a foreign country. I don’t know a soul, I can’t read and write. I’m 52 years old. What do I do? Become a bag lady on the street?
"The only thing I have left now is my family. I have 2 grandchildren, that’s all I have left, and now they want to take that from me."
Her lawyer Jason Donnelly says, “Effectively what Australia is doing -- particularly with long-term non-citizens like Maryanne -- is deporting our problems. Maryanne learned her drug problem in this country, she learned her crimes in this country, in fact she learned everything about her life in this country, and sending her back to Croatia is effectively deporting Australia’s problems.”
The Immigration Department has acknowledged that Ms Caric, “having been away from her country of origin for close to 50 years and having no personal support network there, together with her health and substance abuse issues," will find it "extremely difficult" to adjust to life in Croatia. And yet it wants to proceed with the deportation.
Ms Caric is appealing the decision.