The immigration department is facing a long fight – and possibly an embarrassing backdown – after relatives of Robert Jovicic said they’re appealing against his deportation to Serbia on the grounds that DIMIA relied on “fraudulent” documents that led to Serbia not recognising him as a Serbian citizen.

Since last week’s Lateline story broke, revealing a sick and stateless Robert Jovicic sitting on the steps of Australian Embassy in the Serbian capital of Belgrade, Robert’s sister Susanna Jovicic, legal representative Michaela Byers and a family spokesperson have secured a meeting with DIMIA representatives and a representative from Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone’s office, to take place this afternoon.

Family members of deportee Jovicic, who is currently in accommodation in Belgrade paid for by the Australian government, believe that they can prove that his deportation was illegal. In this afternoon’s meeting, Jovicic’s representatives intend to request a return visa and airline ticket.

They will also demand that the Minister agrees that the cancellation of Jovicic’s visa is void on the grounds of “failure to verify with the Serbian authorities whether Robert was a Serbian National prior to cancellation and thereby rendering Robert stateless. This is also a breach of statutory duty.”

But a DIMIA spokesperson told Crikey that “the indications are that this person can avail himself of citizenship in Serbia and Montenegro if he wishes.”

Jovicic insists that he has been denied citizenship. He says he has been advised, that “because of the problems this issue caused, and the fact that Australia has removed him on character grounds that he would not be eligible for citizenship in Serbia,” says the family spokesperson.

The family also plans to demand that the Immigration Minister acknowledge that Robert’s medical and mental health condition requires his immediate return to Australia. Doctors in Belgrade have advised him that he may be suffering from prostate cancer.