Canadian facing deportation in Australia goes on hunger strike
Ziad Chebib says his family has been torn apart by Australian government
The Canadian Press
Published on Saturday, Dec. 05, 2009 10:41PM EST
A Canadian citizen who has lived in Australia for nearly a decade says he has gone on a hunger strike to protest his imminent deportation to Canada.
Ziad Chebib was in a detention centre in Melbourne on Sunday after spending the past few years battling visa problems with the Australian government.
After exhausting his appeals with the government, a hunger strike was the last card he had to play, Mr. Chebib said.
The only thing I'm taking through my body is water, no solid food, he explained in a phone interview.
I want to stay in Australia with my family to reunite my family once (and for all) in this country here so at least that way we could be … under one roof.
Mr. Chebib, 55, was born in Lebanon and emigrated to Canada in 1976, becoming a citizen and starting up a limousine business in Calgary.
In 2000, Chebib and his family moved to Australia because two of his siblings already lived there.
Mr. Chebib was allowed in the country on a business visa but he was unable to make the income he needed to justify the visa. Both his wife and one of his sons developed health problems and his finances became overstretched, he said.
Then he started having problems with the Australian government, becoming tangled up in years of manoeuvring through the bureaucracy.
That's exactly right, red tape, Mr. Chebib said.
Two of Mr. Chebib's daughters can remain in the country through marriage, but battles with the government over the visa issues pressured his ill wife and son to move to Lebanon. He has another son who lives in Canada and some 85 extended family members who live in Australia.
Mr. Chebib blames the Australian government for breaking up his family.
They broke my family into three different parts…I think that's unfair, he said. I don't want my family to be scattered in Canada and Lebanon and here.
Earlier this year, Mr. Chebib turned to the Canadian embassy in Australia for help. He said diplomats told him they had no say in an Australian immigration matter.
Australian government officials were not immediately available for comment.
Last week, a spokesman for Australia's Department of Immigration and Citizenship was quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald as saying the department has been in constant contact with Mr. Chebib about his status, but that he was on a removal pathway.
A news release issued by Mr. Chebib's family said Australian immigration officials expected to deport him within the next seven days.
The release said Mr. Chebib's correspondence was forwarded to Australian federal opposition politicians in hopes they would intervene.
But Mr. Chebib said he had little hope of a reprieve as he tried to put his case in front of Immigration Minister Chris Evans and failed to get a favourable decision.