THE couple at the centre of a deportation struggle has refuted recent claims made by the Immigration Department in a statement regarding their visa rejection.
Pakistani-born Ali Choudhry made headlines over his then-impending deportation to his birthplace on January 8 following a partnership visa rejection despite having an Australian partner of almost four years.
Choudhry was told last week that he had been granted a bridging visa until the Migration Review Tribunal (MRT) reviewed his latest appeal.
Following public outcry and support, Choudhry and partner Matthew Hynd publically refuted a statement the department released last Thursday.
It said that Choudhry was “in no danger of being deported” and that a bridging visa was granted while any application was being processed.
However, the couple said they were told on December 9 that Choudhry would be deported if he had not launched an appeal.
They did so in December, but they said they never received confirmation and that it would be assigned to the MRT.
For this reason, the couple believed Choudhry’s deportation was still scheduled for January 8.
The department also stated that a condition for extending Choudhry’s student visa – the rejected application in March 2011 that led to the partnership visa attempt – was breached because Choudhry had not enrolled in university.
However, according to University of Queensland records, Choudhry was enrolled in his course and confirmation of this was given to the department via the couple’s lawyer.
The department also stated that Choundhry did not respond to follow- up information requests regarding his student visa, but the couple said the paperwork never reached him due to the 2011 Brisbane floods that destroyed his home.
“Despite having a mail re-direction in place, neither this request for information nor the secondary attempt for this information was ever received,” the couple stated.
“[The department] have acknowledged that this paperwork was in fact sent to the flood-affected house. We accept that Mr Choudhry was therefore in fact unlawfully residing in Australia, but we stress that this was due to circumstances beyond his control.”
The Immigration Department also stated that same-sex de facto partners were assessed no differently than heterosexual couples, and that applicants needed to “demonstrate a genuine and ongoing relationship”.
Hynd said they never felt like they were being assessed differently due to their sexuality, rather that their case manager failed to give “due merit” to evidence they provided to prove their committed relationship.
Of most significance was when they entered into a same-sex civil union in Queensland before the state government replaced it with “registered relationships” in 2012, which still gave same-sex couples the same rights as married heterosexual couples.
The couple believed this was “ignored” by the department and hoped this would not happen when the MRT reviewed their appeal.
Questions were also raised as to why Choudhry didn’t contact the department after not hearing anything about student visa extension application.
“I assumed that since I was working and studying that if something had gone wrong, they would either contact me directly or through the university,“ Choundhry told the Star Observer.
There were also questions as to why Choudhry had to be deported to Pakistan, where could face criminal prosecution for being gay, rather than return to the USA – where he was raised and would presumably have an American passport.
“I don’t have an American passport. The last time I lived (there) was when I was about 13 … it wasn’t a decision that I got to make. As a minor, my parents made the decision for me,” Choudhry said.
He added that afterwards, and before he moved to Australia for university, he lived in Canada. He also never had a Canadian passport and for the same reason.
Choudhry added that his parents now lived in Pakistan, but their relationship was not on good terms after he came out to them.
“The last thing my mother said to me was that she wants nothing to do with me and that I’m going to hell and Matt is ruining me. Unfortunately we haven’t spoken since,” he said.
Choudhry stressed his parents were not bad people.